Author Interview with CJ Douglass–plus an awesome giveaway for the holidays!

cj douglass author pictureI met CJ Douglass, erotica writer extraordinaire, on Twitter, and I was lucky enough for her to agree to an interview. We chat about writing erotica, the bad rep indie erotica has in the publishing community, and her real thoughts on Faleena Hopkins!

Make a cup of coffee, grab a seat, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! In light of the holidays,  I’m giving away this super-cute mug and an Amazon gift card worth $25.00. Treat yourself to a couple of books for the holidays! Why not?

 

 

Let’s start!

 

pink panties1. For the most part, you write short fiction (novelettes, novellas). Do you think short work is easier or harder to sell? 

In my line of work (Erotica) the shorter the better! Which is what makes my recent fondness for only novellas somewhat unfortunate…

For pure smut, people seem to want to read something hot and short. Get a quick hit of the sexy and get out. I myself, though, like a little more story in there most of the time, and so my word counts have slowly been increasing. As my sales resultantly decrease. For less NSFW tales, however, longer works definitely sell better.

pink panties2. Your genre of choice is erotica. Do you find it hard to market? For example, Amazon loves to bury my erotica novellas in search results. How do you combat that? 

Amazon doesn’t let you advertise Erotica on their platform, so there the best you can hope for is to optimize your search results and pray.

There are tools for aiding in this (which I have not yet availed myself of, but plan to) but otherwise my main outreach is on Twitter. Not for advertising, exactly. I post promos, sure, but not that often. I like to put myself out there, let people get to know me – and one day perhaps those folks will check out one of my stories because of this relationship. Then another. Maybe even tell a friend!

Blogging is a tool many use – and I’m sure it’s helpful, but I just don’t have any writing energy left over for it! I do have a few free stories on my website that people can read to get a taste of what I have to offer in my paid-for work. Mostly though, yeah. Get my keywords right, and have as good a cover as I can create.

pink panties3. Indies have to push against the idea our work in inferior. Writers who publish poorly written erotica enforces this idea (and OMG, you know there’s some out there). How do you push back against this misconception? (For example, do you read craft books, have an English degree, hire an editor.) 

I don’t have money for an editor (my stories sometimes don’t make back the handful of dollars I spend on a cover image) but for anything novella-length or above I use beta readers, for sure.

I’ve spent my whole life reading and writing (I literally started reading novels at the age of four) so I have a sense of what the language should sound like. I took creative writing in high school (though my college classes were more science-based) and yes, I’ve read my share of craft books (and internet articles).

Odd as it may sound, screenplay craft really has helped me hone my skills. It doesn’t help with the prose, (that is down to my own dedication and extensive rereading and revision) but it does aid in the creation of the story itself. Indie books (not just Erotica, but all genres) tend to suffer from a lack of editing of the concepts and basic storycraft – even if it has been line-edited by a professional.

Making sure your plot and story (two different concepts, incidentally) build and flow well is of vital importance – and getting it right immediately lifts your work above the crowd (in my opinion).

Screenplays, being condensed stories, are good training in this particular art.

pink panties4. Will you ever write longer work? Perhaps a full-length novel? 

Funny you should bring that up! I’m getting a draft of my novel ready for beta readers as we speak. It’s an epic, post-apocalyptic tale – but a very heightened one, that should be fun and empowering as well as dark and depressing. I’m really excited about this book, as it’s a concept I actually came up with when I was thirteen or fourteen, and have only recently dug back out and developed properly.

pink panties5. How did you become a part of Writer Twitter? Do you find it beneficial in sales? How do you like the writing community in terms of support?

I resisted Twitter for a long time, actually. It seemed pointless to me. How wrong could I have been? I have met some of my best friends there, and the support from my peers has been priceless.

You also get a chance to connect with readers (both your own and others’) to share in the joy and to see what people like.

As for sales? It has a certain impact, for sure. I’d venture to say that a good chunk of my meager sales came from letting people know about the stories on that platform. I doubt Twitter is useful as a large-scale marketing tool for books, however. It’s more for generally making people aware of your presence than specifically selling your work.

pink panties6. You told me in a couple of Tweets you design your own covers. Can you take us through the process? Where do you find your inspiration, photos, etc. 

The process, generally, is me hopelessly moving images around in my template until something looks half-way decent! Usually, I’ll have an idea in my head – and then can’t find any images to fit that general concept. I then settle for something which is not at all like that first notion, but which suits the story anyway.

When I am planning ahead, I browse for photos (either free ones on places like Pixabay, or cheap ones at 123rf.com) first and allow them to inspire me for a good cover idea. This way, I’m not fighting a preconception, but can evolve a cover idea based on the available
images.

If I had any design training, I could tell you why something looks right in a certain place, and more easily find that balance. As it is, I haphazardly arrange elements until they “feel” right to me. I also involve my Twitter followers in the process sometimes, too!

pink panties7. You have a book titled The Cocky Author. Is this a hat tip (or perhaps a sneer) to Faleena Hopkins? Can you share your thoughts on how all that went down? 

Cocky Romance Author was the quickest I’ve ever written a story.

When Faleena Hopkins’ now-notorious copyright scandal came to light, I immediately wanted to thumb my nose at her for it – despite not generally being a Romance author. (I have since written some stories that might be classifiable under that banner, however.)
I knew if I was going to do it, I’d have to do it quickly. This wasn’t about creating a work of art; I was making a statement.

So the next day, I typed up the 9,000 word story (it was supposed to be shorter, but I found myself unable to write something without a good underlying character arc) and cleaned it up a little to post that evening. I wasn’t the first to get out a protest “cocky” story, I don’t think, but I was right up there. I made the story as cheap as Amazon would allow me to (99c) because it was not about profit, but about activism and generally making noise about this divisive issue.

It should be obvious to anyone that a common descriptive word cannot be copyrighted in this way – but it did not stop Miss Hopkins or those following in her footsteps from doing precisely that.

Thank goodness these spurious claims keep getting shut down – eventually.

pink panties8. You run your website through Wix. How has your experience been? 

Wix is a generally decent site builder, I think. Better than some I have used. I only have a free one for the moment, though I think paying for it would allow the site to be found in search engines. Hard to justify the expense for now, though. What it needs right now is an overhaul! I’m still using the very first template I threw together, and really have to get it redone. Whenever I can find the time…

I love being able to host a place that gathers together not only links to my books (Amazon does that already!) but lets me include free stories that give potential readers a place to sample my work in tales that are complete – not mere snippets of a longer story.
Whether it helps my sales or not I can’t say, but theoretically it ought to be useful for curious readers!

Thank you CJ! It sounds like you have a lot going on right now! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and explain a little bit about your writer’s life. 🙂

You can find CJ on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads! Check out her author website for the free goodies, and as always, don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway! It will run for a little bit, so don’t forget to tell your friends.

Thanks for joining us, and check back when I talk about shopping in your local indie bookstore, and how my Freebooksy promo did for All of Nothing!

Until next time!

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My not so happy review of the Happy Book Reviews service

I listen to the Sell More Books Show podcast. I love listening to the self-publishing indie news they cover every week. Some weeks are lighter than others, but it’s a great way to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

The show is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral who are also hosting the 2nd annual Sell More Books Show summit I’m delighted to attend next year in Chicago.

Bryan does a lot for the indie community. He’s published several non-fiction books including How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis,  a book I recommend regularly, as I use it every time I need to write a blurb. He also runs a business based off that book, in case you ever feel like you just can’t write another synopsis.

Jim Kukral also does a lot for the author community: creator of Book Marketing Club, he also founded and curates the Happy Book Reviews website.

I went into the brief history of these gentlemen because I trust them and I admire all the hard work they do for us indies.

But sometimes things don’t work as well as they could, or should, and Jim’s Happy Book Reviews is one of those things.

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As indies, we all want those five-star reviews for our books. 

At $25.00, he promises to put your book in front of thousands of readers who want to download your book for free and leave a review. This sounds great! At this low fee, my book was available for twenty-five downloads on a first come, first serve basis, to people who would read it and review it with no obligations for me to do the same.

It really could be a boon for us authors who need reviews for that social proof we’ve written a good book.

But my enthusiasm waned the moment I received the email that contained the newsletter that featured my book.

In the whole month my book was available for download, my book was downloaded twice. Yep. Twice. Out of twenty-five copies available.

There were, in my opinion a few reasons for this:

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to sign up for the newsletter. This seems like a no-brainer because you want to see what your book looks like in the newsletter. But as my friend Aila points out–if all the recipients of the newsletter are other indie
authors . . . writers don’t read. If they do, they are helping out their friends by beta-reading or acting as a critique partner. Jim promises he’ll put your book in front of readers, but I suspect that what he’s doing is putting your (and my) book in front of a whole lot of indie authors. Who don’t read other indies, at least, not for pleasure.

The first email went into my Promotions tab and not my inbox. You can fix this, of course, but how many emails do people miss because their email marks the newsletters as ads? (Which, technically, they are.)

Happy Book Reviews will take anything. I’d never speak negatively about someone else’s work, but I have to admit, I was appalled at the company my book kept. I try to be professional in all ways. And while my books may look indie (there’s really no help for that no matter how good you are) some of the books featured in that newsletter looked downright cruddy. Jim will accept any book when what he should be doing is vetting them. While the information isn’t available to me, I wonder how many readers unsubscribe when they see the lack of quality in these books.

quality control

Someone needs to be in charge of quality control

 

**I can understand why he doesn’t do this. Jim and Bryan frequently talk about gatekeeping and I realize Jim doesn’t want to be in the position of determining what is “good.” But I don’t think this is any different than any other promo site where they only allow in quality books. They have a readership to keep happy, and offering them schlock is not the way to go about it. Someone, somewhere, will always play God, and with the products and services Jim, as a book coach, offers, he’s in a better position than some to determine what is “good.”

Only the blurb is available. I know it would take up more space or cost more to send it out the newsletter, but it would help if a potential reader could read the first couple pages of the book they’re considering downloading. It would have helped me avoid the boring contemporary romance I downloaded 1) because I wanted to try the service myself and 2) the cover and blurb looked okay.

The newsletter isn’t broken up into genres. My book sat next to children’s books, paranormal romance, thrillers, and history books. If he could separate the books into genres that could help readers find the books they like. I had a positive Freebooksy experience because of this.


The time for my book has run out, and there’s no time limit for those two people who have downloaded my book to leave a review. So I’m not even sure if those two people who downloaded my book will come through. But $25.00 for two reviews is too much.

I know why Jim will never do any of my suggestions–it’s too much work. He’s a savvy businessman, and I’m sure these suggestions have been brought up to him by other people in the past.

But it must work for some authors, or he’d close down the website. Everyone who uses his service can’t have the experience I did, or his inbox would be full of complaints.

Maybe I’m a black sheep, but somehow, I don’t think so. Wherever He Goes is a solid book. Anyone who reads the first page knows I don’t head hop, I don’t have any typos, and my inciting event happens on the first page of the book. Not Chapter 4.

Unfortunately, I do not feel like my book fit in with the others featured, and unless he makes changes, I won’t be using his service again.

You may have a different experience, and at $25.00, it’s a cheap risk. But I’m also aware that $25.00 could buy you two paperback books, five Starbucks coffees, or could reimburse a beta-reader for her time. If you’re poor, $25.00 can go a long way, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

My blog is about my experiences with the services offered to indies, and my adventures in publishing my books. I want to help. This was my experience, and unfortunately, it could have been better.

I’ll still listen to the podcast (and I encourage you, too) and I’m looking forward to the meeting Jim at the summit.

But the Happy Book Reviews feature isn’t for me, and I wish you luck if you decide to ever give it a go.

Marketing Our Books. It Sucks, so Let’s Talk About It!

Marketing is different from branding. Marketing is the act of pushing your book/brand/product out into the world.

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I think this is one reason indies get branding and marketing confused. We’re often told to start marketing ourselves before we have a solidified brand, or before we’ve published a book.

Build your brand (remember, that’s who you are as an author) by blogging, tweeting and posting about what interests you. You need to build your brand, then market that brand.

What can you do to prepare to market your brand?

Start a Blog 

But who are you blogging for: readers or writers? They usually are not the same audience. Joanna Penn is a good example of this. Joanna Penn writes non-fiction to help indie writers like herself. Her blog contains information for indies. But she also writes paranormal thrillers under JF Penn, and JF Penn writes a blog for her readers about her books. Right out of the gate I’m going to guess you don’t want to run two blogs. So choose who you are writing for. Then when you have a following you can use your blog to market your book by posting snippets of your WIP, short stories, etc. Hopefully, you’ll be cultivating your blog followers to want to buy your book when it comes out.

 

Tweet

Tweeting is easy, but again if you dive into Writer Twitter you won’t sell many books. Writer Twitter is helpful to your author brand if you can cultivate a helpful image. Offer to beta read. Retweet helpful articles about the publishing industry. Follow agents and retweet their query tips.  Network with others. Make writer friends.

This is also helpful if you ever decide you want to dive into non-fiction to help your fellow authors. I’m currently outlining a self-editing book. If there is something you know about the publishing process and you can help others by writing a book about it (you just might want to someday!) Writer Twitter is the perfect audience for a helpful resource book! 

My favorite indie nonfiction books:

favorite non-fiction indie authors

 

Join Goodreads as a reader.

Read books in your genre and join discussion groups. This can take years, but the idea is that your friends on the platform will organically want to read your book after your release. If you read the study released by Goodreads about Celeste Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere, it explains why and how her book was so successful. One of the points was that she was an active member of Goodreads for 10 years before she published. Her network helped make her book popular.

 

Join Instagram

This platform is the only one where I get personal. I’ve posted selfies. Pictures of my cats. Things that are interesting to me. And as my numbers grow I do post graphics with a line or two of my WIP, to build buzz for my books. I don’t do it often, maybe one photo ten will be something about my book.

Instagram is a good example of both branding and marketing. My photos allow my followers to get to know me. Chocolate. Cats. Books I’m reading. Pretty scenery. I’m a  chocolate-eating, coffee-drinking writer who loves to read. I hope my Instagram reflects that.

For a good list of writer hashtags you should use when posting a picture, look here.


Start a Facebook group for readers who love your genre.

Because not only do you write [insert genre here] you’re supposed to be reading it, too. Announce a book every couple months then talk about it. Authors these days, if you tell them their book is featured, may even participate in a question-and-answer discussion. If you read indie, that’s a win-win. A win for the indie author because it gives them exposure. A win for you because you’re networking and supporting a fellow author.

These types of marketing ideas are connected to your brand. You are a nice, friendly writer who writes yummy books your readers will want to devour, right?  Right. 

There are other marketing strategies that don’t take so much time and/or participation:

Pay for promos. Pay for Amazon ads. Pay for Facebook ads.

After you publish, use your promo free days if you are in Select to build buzz, or if you’re wide, price a prequel novella to a series permafree.

If you’re just starting out, you may not have a series, or a novella for that matter, which brings me to a good point: it’s easy to get caught up in all of this brand-building and not have time to write a word. Remember, you don’t need a brand if you don’t have something to sell. Get your book written. Blog about it – post snippets. But in the end, the following/readership you’re building will eventually want to see some progress. Namely a book they can buy to support you.

So where do I fall in all this? I don’t market much. I play on Twitter, but as I said, Twitter doesn’t sell books. I buy a promo here and there. But to be clear, even though I have my trilogy and a standalone, and another standalone I hope to release next month, I still consider myself a baby in this industry. I do very little with my author page on Facebook. I’ve heard popular indies post two or more times a day

I’m liking Instagram more. I bought the Canva app, and I’m playing with that so I can post cuter graphics on the platform. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, as it’s a little different from the desktop software.

The strategies I’m living by right now?

Blog. I like to help; it’s part of my brand.

Write. There’s no better marketing for your book then releasing another.

I’m going to keep studying. I read a ton of self-publishing books. Marketing books. Editing books. That may not do too much for me marketing-wise currently, but they’ll help me write better books and market them more effectively in the long run. And anything I learned I pass on to you. 🙂 

Throwing money at, and trying to market, one or two books won’t do you any good. Fiction is a long-term game, and your focus should be on building your backlist.

But by the same token, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no harm in building your brand. Eventually, you’ll want your brand and your backlist to meet where your marketing efforts will do something rather than waste money. I’ve been publishing for two years and still at the foot of the mountain. I won’t reach the top for a long time.  But that means I won’t stop trying.

author platform

 

It will take a while, but you can do it!

Tell me what you think.

 

Happy writing and book selling!

Branding. What Does it Mean for You as an Author?

There are a lot of questions about how marketing and branding are different and how they are the same. In this two or three part blog series, I’ll explore what branding and marketing are, and how they work together.

What is branding?

What do you think when you think of a brand? Sometimes you think of a logo right away.

Starbucks mermaid.
The Nike swoosh.
The golden arches of McDonald’s.
Verizon’s red check mark that looks like a V.

But brand is just more than a cute logo. What do you think of when you think of Starbucks? Pumpkin spice lattes. Fairtrade coffee. Maybe sensitivity training after that one barista called the cops on those two black men who hadn’t gotten around to ordering coffee yet because they were waiting for a friend.

As a business, when people see your logo, or think of your brand, you want them to think about good things. Pumpkin spice lattes. Good. Fairtrade coffee. Good. Racist employees. Not good.

McDonald’s has yummy fries. Cheeseburgers. Heart attacks and obesity. Shake machines that never work. Probably every big-named brand will have some things that will mar their reputation.

As a person, you have a brand whether you realize it or not. As an employee, are you dependable? A team player? The person your boss knows will stay late? Or are you a slacker? No one wants to work with you on projects because your coworkers know you won’t pull your weight.

You have a brand as a friend. Are you always late? Maybe it’s so bad your friends tell you a different time than when they show up because they’re tired of waiting for you. You have a brand as a bad friend. Or maybe you always buy the drinks when you go out for dinner. Good friend. Good brand.

These brands associated with you take years to cultivate, years of the same behavior. That’s why creating a brand as an author is difficult and confusing. It takes years.

branding a heifer

Author branding doesn’t have to be this painful! Poor cow! 

It’s also why thinking about your brand when you are just starting out is important, because once people start to think of you in a certain way, it’s hard to change their minds.

What do you want your readers to think of you in relation as an author?

You don’t want people to hear your name and have bad thoughts associated with you and your author brand or books.

Examples of bad things people can associate with your brand (YOU):

  • She fights with people who leave poor reviews
  • He doesn’t put out books in a timely fashion. She makes her readers wait.
  • Her books are full of typos
  • She’s not friendly or supportive of other authors in her genre
  • She complains a lot online. ie, she’s a whiner
  • He doesn’t seem friendly, and fans are hesitant to reach out

The way you are perceived by people who pick up details about you, as an author, is your brand.

If you don’t believe me, think of some big-time authors:

Stephen King
His brand is horror. Other things I think of when I hear his name: He hates Trump. He got hit by a truck and almost died. He probably didn’t intend the latter, but I read about it in his book, On Writing. The former wouldn’t surprise him—his tweets are full of disgust for our President.

Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance Author
Redhead
Maybe you think of her pen name, JD Robb
Prolific. She always has a new book out. And it’s always a bestseller, too.
I’ve read a lot of her books, and I know she loves Ireland. Lots of her books are set there. It’s part of her brand to me.

JK Rowling
Harry Potter, naturally
Billionaire, philanthropist
Maybe you think of the Harry Potter theme park. Maybe you’ve been there.

EL James
Overnight success
Poor writing
BDSM
Twilight fan fiction
Bitch

Her brand is less than favorable. Be it jealousy, or whatever else, maybe the way she behaves in interviews, rumors of the way she acted on the set of the 50 Shades movies, no one likes her. She’d have to hire a good public relations firm to fix her reputation–if she cared what you thought.

You really don’t want people hearing your name and thinking “bitch” or “asshole.” No matter what area of your life you’re talking about.

First and foremost, write good books. Your brand won’t matter if your product sucks. You’ll have a great brand with nothing to sell.

Be friendly online. Be professional. It won’t take much for people to associate you with being a nice person—if you really truly are a nice person. Help people. Stay away from drama. Don’t interact with trolls. Don’t defend yourself and your books if someone gives you a one-star review.

Maybe look at creating a logo. Some authors’ trademark is simply having their names look the same on all their books. I suck at this because I have fun designing my own covers. But that’s a conscious choice I make whenever I release a book.

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Maybe my imprint will catch on. I could make a different logo with a free logo maker, but I don’t want to give people too much to remember.

When people hear my name I want people to think Contemporary Romance. Well-written books. Happy endings. Friendly, cheerful. Awesome blogger. Maybe people will think about my cats because I post pictures of them on Instagram from time to time. These are all good things.

That is author brand. It takes time to build. You have to start slow and you have to do it right.

That’s why publishing just an “okay” book your first time out is a bad idea. That “okay” book may not be enough to impress your readers and they won’t give you another chance.

Wow them from the get-go. In every aspect!

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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And if you have to turn your brand around, that makes the marketing part of it that much harder and difficult for you.

This blog post is already close to 1,000 words, so we’ll visit Marketing in the next post, and talk a little bit about how to combine Brand and Marketing!

See you next time!

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Author Interview with Daniel Mattia, Author of Debut Novella In Crows’ Claws

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Dan and I chit-chat on Twitter a little bit, and I asked if I could interview him, and he was amazing and said yes! Dan published his debut novella, In Crows’ Claws on July 7th of 2018. Writing and publishing is hard work, and everyone has a different experience when it comes to publishing. Listen in to see how he fared in the big bad world of indie-publishing!


crowHow long have you been writing? How long did it take you to write
In Crows’ Claws?

I’ve written almost all of my life. I’m 28 now, and remember writing short stories and tales all throughout my childhood. I continued writing throughout my early teens, then stopped for a few years until about 2010.

During that time, I was at the tail-end of a severe bout of depression and found solace in my writing. It was during this time that I started crafting the fantasy setting of Fyrndell, the world in which In Crows’ Claws is based. I wrote quite a few short stories during this time, all of which have helped me to further flesh out and build upon this setting, but In Crows’ Claws is the first I’ve published.

I wrote the first version of In Crows’ Claws in 2010 or 2011 as a weekly web serial. It was a way to ensure I wrote on a consistent basis and the accountability of publishing a new chapter on a set schedule held me to that promise (for the most part).

The original serialized version took about three or four months to write and was fairly raw. That’s not to say it wasn’t written well-enough for publication, but it certainly didn’t meet my current standards.

crowWhat surprised you most about the writing process of this novella?

The emotions I had to invoke in order to represent the mindset of certain characters. I generally write without much personal emotion; I think there needs to be a sort of cold logic when you’re going through the actual craft of writing. I’m not writing how I feel, but how my characters feel, so it’s important for me, as the author, to be as emotionless as possible.

But as I wrote – particularly in the cases of Ahri and Nextiarc, two of the main characters in In Crows’ Claws – I discovered myself feeling how they felt in some of their specific chapters. Ahri, especially, starts off as an excited and optimistic young man who quickly finds out that the world of Fyrndell is a cold, dark place and the “truths” he felt he knew aren’t entirely accurate. The second-to-last chapter, especially, makes me tear up every time I read it – and, again, I’m not someone who has that happen often.

The chapters written from Nextiarc’s point-of-view surprised me even more. They were actually the most difficult to write because, in order to write from the POV of a literal monster who not only enjoys killing but venerates the very act, I had to adopt a rather dark and violent mindset. I had to write his POV chapters in short bursts because writing in his mindset for long actually frightened me.

crowWhy did you decide to publish?

To prove to myself that I could. I have so many stories I want to tell, particularly in the world of Fyrndell, but I’m someone who often has a self-defeatist attitude and can easily give up before I even try. Forcing myself to publish a finished work (along with the encouragement of some close friends) was what I needed to do first before I could even think of repeating the process.

crowWhat was the biggest obstacle when publishing your novella? What did you do to overcome that obstacle?

Formatting. My workflow, and the software used, is atypical from the workflow used by many other Kindle authors. I had to adapt and figure something out for myself despite there not being much information available for how to do it. Luckily, I discovered the Kindle Create software, which helped me to format and publish the Kindle version without much pain – after, of course, I had converted the book to the proper file format.

crowWhat do you mean by workflow?

In this context, workflow basically means process. Like you were witness to on Twitter during my editing/formatting phase, I didn’t write the novella in Word so exporting from the software I used (yWriter, something akin to Scrivener) meant much of the formatting advice I found online needed some tweaking to apply to my situation. On top of that, I completed the last editing phase in Kindle Create instead of the actual doc, which was a stupid idea, since it meant the final editing copy was locked to a proprietary format and couldn’t be easily converted to a friendlier format, ie. a .doc or .pdf.

crowWith publishing your debut novella, what is one piece of advice you would pass on to a writer who is thinking about publishing for the first time?

Don’t underestimate the value of editing. No matter how much or how little editing your work needs, it will always be better after you’ve put some solid editing time into it. I’d recommend hiring an editor to do it for you, but there’s no excuse for not editing yourself if you can’t afford an editor. Do at least three editing passes in which you read every word and every line.

crowWhat is next for you writing- and publishing-wise?

In Crows’ Claws is sort of the spiritual precursor to what readers can expect from the next Tales of Fyrndell book. My next work will be a novel in the same setting that takes place in a distant kingdom under siege from an invading neighbor, eventually introducing readers to a cold war that’s heating up quickly.

crowWhat will you do differently the next time around?

I’ve already identified where in my workflow I need to make changes to make the formatting process easier and more simple. The next release will come out in both Kindle and paperback format and will (fingers crossed!) not be such a pain to format and release into the world!

Thanks for the interview, Dan! It sounds like we have some spectacular stuff to look forward to!


yWriter is a free writing program similar to Scrivener. If you have been thinking about Scrivner, but don’t want to pay, try yWriter. You can find it here.

Editing and formatting your books for publication can be kind of tricky. Dan isn’t the first author to . . . put it informally . . . mess up. Even after the books I’ve published, I still find shortcuts and different ways of doing things every time.

Formatting your Word file for conversion to download to KDP (Kindle) doesn’t take that long at all. I blogged the instructions here.

If you’re interested in reading In Crows’ Claws you can find it here.


In Crows’ Claws Description

“This desert is the domain of death.”in crows claws cover for blog

The world of Fyrndell is a place of ancient powers, myriad races, and untold secrets. It is a world where gods may or may not exist, where heroes are few and far between, and where technology progresses at a haphazard pace.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS tells the story of two opposing armies as they race across the continent to a recently-unearthed desert tomb believed to be the final resting place of the goddess Konia. Read the letters sent home from Ahri Vestesson, crowkeeper for the Order of the Orthodox Knights of Fyrndell’s Crusade Army, as he wrestles with matters of faith and purpose while longing to return home to his betrothed. The letters of Marshal Taves Khest, veteran general of the Imperial Expedition Force of the Mhedorian Empire, will demonstrate his duty and ability while he leads his army to and through the desert to claim the glory of capturing the Tomb of Konia in the name of his empress.

But the desert holds many secrets and even more dangers still, for both armies will encounter a brutish and violent warband sworn to the service of Tavradyss, God-Prince of Conflict, and led by the even more vicious Nextiarc.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS is a tale full of action, ambiguous divinity, and heartbreak as three armies converge on the Tomb of Konia, desperate to lay claim to its hidden secrets…

 

Check Dan on these awesome platforms and thanks for reading!

crowAmazon   crow  Goodreads  crow  Twitter  crow  Facebook crow

Whine a Little . . . Over There

There’s been lots of whining on Twitter lately. More specifically, authors whining about not seeing books sales. Even more specifically, authors not seeing their books sell.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, or people aren’t looking forward to school starting, or the crap we’re all going to have to deal with when THE HOLIDAYS start in full-swing October first.Dog Days of Summer

But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because YOU, and nobody else but you, can make sales happen for your book.

Mostly, this is on Twitter. I can say it louder for the people in the back. TWITTER ISN’T FOR SELLING BOOKS. If you’re a member of Writer Twitter, you’re a member of WRITER Twitter. There’s a reason why it’s called that. Because we’re writers. Join READER Twitter. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe #amreading is wedged between #IhateTrump and #turtlesareweird. If you’re convinced Twitter is the only way to sell books, or it’s the only way you want to try, break into the #amreading crowd. Or try. I’ll leave a light on for ya.

But if you want to take stab at moving books instead of whining about it, explore these ideas. First though, you need to take a look at your book.

  • Cover needs to be decent. Needs to depict the genre, needs to fit in, but stand out (in a good way.) Join an FB cover group and get some critiques. Taking a second look at your cover and if it’s not up to snuff, fix it. It’s killing your sales before they start.
    Books to consider:

    Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices
    Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft)

  • Make your blurb awesome! This is easier said than done. Bryan Cohen is great at this. He teaches webinars and he runs a business doing this. And he makes very good money doing it. But he shares his knowledge, so don’t just moan you don’t know how to do it. Read about it. You’re a writer. Research. Here’s his book. He breaks it down so you can do it, too. With his guidance, I write my blurbs in half an hour. Here’s a Book Description Critique with Bryan Cohen hosted by Reedsy. Watch it.
  • Make sure you have a decent title. No one told me this before I published, and now my very first book has a stupid title I can’t change because I don’t want to waste the money I spent on my ISBN number. If you don’t have any reviews and didn’t purchase your ISBN number, you can change your title. Changing your title and ISBN number will lose you reviews so if you only have one from your best friend Angie, she’ll probably post it again if you republish with a better title.
    Grab some ideas from Dave Chesson; he’s got some good ones.
  • Make sure your “look insides” (first sample pages) are decent. This can make or break you if all the other parts about your book are spot on. If you don’t have a solid POV, if you have typos, if your formatting is messed up, the best cover in the world won’t save you. Try to get your hook within the first few pages of your book so it’s included in the look inside. Turn that browser into a buyer!

Now that we covered that and your book is up to par, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re doing to help your book sell. Tweeting every day isn’t going to help. So what can you do to spike sales?

  • Are you spending any money?  You have to spend money to make money. I’m not kidding. Lots of people are like, “I don’t have any money to put toward selling my book.” Then you’re not going to sell your books. No business has ever opened that didn’t need seed money. Investors. Start-up money. You buy stock for your shelves, you fork over for rental space. You pay for wages for your employees before you’ve even sold one thing. Your book isn’t any different. Nobody ever went into business for themselves because they needed money yesterday. Starting a business is a lifelong endeavor. What can you put your money toward?

    *Pay for promos. I spent 80 dollars to give away 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away in a free book promo for FreeBooksy. It got me some reviews, and lots of KU reads for the whole trilogy. I made my money back and then some.

    *Pay for giveaways. Goodreads did away with their free giveaways but because you have to pay, the market for giveaways isn’t so saturated. People have debated as to whether or not it’s a good thing, but I think it is. I haven’t tried them yet, but in the spirit of trying one new thing with each new release, I’ll be trying it when I publish All of Nothing this fall. Read about them here.

    *Pay for ads on Amazon. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’ve been blogging about my experience. It won’t break the bank to give it a try, but it’s important to do it correctly. Brian Meeks has a wonderful book about it. Amazon changed the platform a bit, so his instructions are already outdated even though his book is only a year old. But his advice is still as good as gold, and just as valuable.

    *Pay for ads on Facebook. These are trickier than Amazon ads. At least, I’ve read that they are. I haven’t tried Facebook ads, and if you don’t have the money to spare, I would suggest going with Amazon ads first. I’ve spent under five dollars experimenting with Amazon Ads. But if you want to try FB ads, again, do it correctly. Michael Cooper has a super great book about it. It’s important to try ads correctly, otherwise you’ll blow through money, claim they don’t work, and you may write off a great way to let people know about your books!

    *Pay for a blog tour. I used to hear a lot about these two years ago when I joined Twitter, but not so much anymore. You don’t have to pay someone to set up a blog tour, but if you pay a legit person they’ll know the best blogs to submit your book to. I’ve never tried one of these. They’re time-consuming. Either you have to fill out an interview sheet or compose a guest post for that blog. If you’re doing a full tour, that could consist of anywhere between 5 to 20 or even more blog sites. That’s a lot of guest blogging and interviews when maybe you should be writing your next book.

    *Reviews. If you do this in a legitimate fashion, this can be a coup for you. I have not tried it because the service I wanted to try distributes the books to readers through BookFunnel and that goes against KDP Select’s terms of service. I pulled Wherever He Goes out of Select to try this review service, and it comes out September 3rd. It wasn’t doing well in KU anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in trying. I’m going to try Happy Book Reviews. I’ve heard good things and so-so things about results. But if you have a good book with a good blurb and good cover, and the plot/genre isn’t too weird, you may get good results. Give it a shot.

  • Are you writing more books? The best marketing you can do is release new books. Lots of debate on quality versus quantity, but if you just can’t scrape up the cash to put toward your book’s promo, at least writing and releasing is free. *As free as you can get without spending money on cover, editing, etc. I’ve heard you drop off the Amazon algorithms after three months, so you want to release something every three months. Try releasing tie-in novellas. Or just dig in your heels and write the next book. I see lots of people trying to build careers on one book, and that only works if you write a non-fiction book and your career is already based on that book. Readers expect more from you. Keep them happy.
  • Offer to guest blog on other people’s websites in your genre. Ask “up.” Someone in your genre who has more followers than you. Someone whose website gets a bit more traction than yours. This is where your tweeting should come in handy–you’ve made connections, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people would love to host a guest blogger. It frees up their schedule for the week. But make sure your book is up to snuff or they’ll turn you down. And be prepared to giveaway a book. That seems counterproductive to sales, but lots of bloggers want to reward their readers for showing up.
  • Think local. Ask your town’s newspaper’s lifestyle section to do an article on you. If you have local small magazines, ask them to do a profile. Ask your indie bookstore if you can do a signing, or if they’ll sell your book. Heck, maybe get together with a couple of indies in your area and ask Barnes and Noble if they’re willing to do an Indie Night. Asking is hard. We’re introverts at heart, but even if the answer is no, at least you can say you tried.
  • Take a hard look at your book. Besides the cover, the editing, the blurb, the title, ask yourself, is this something someone would want to read? Especially if this is your first book. Indies like to experiment when they’re starting out. We’re finding our niche; we’re finding our passion. Experimenting with your hamster detective series is cool, but can you get sales? Maybe not. So take a hard look at your book before you throw money at it. It may not do any good. And that’s the sad truth. If you can be honest with yourself and say yes, my book has readers, all I have to do is fine them, then good luck!

Whining about lack of sales isn’t going to help you sell books. After a while it becomes annoying, and you end up tarnishing your reputation. If your first book isn’t working, then move on. Write something else. Write something better. We get better at our craft with every book we write.

book marketing challengeRachel Thompson says we don’t get traction with our careers until we have at least 6-10 books under our belts. As the self-publishing industry gets more competitive, that number may get higher. If you’d like to read her awesome book about marketing, you can look for it here.

Book sales are subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else.

The best advice I can give you is write well, and publish often. Stay consistent. Build your brand on a genre you love to write.

Sales take time.

Have patience, and good luck!

 

buy image for blog

 

When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts