Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Not As Deep As I Thought It Was

I've finally done it.  After eight years, seven novels, three publishers, many rejections,  and much hand wringing, I've decided to dip my toe ever so gently into the swirling waters of self-publishing. If you've read any of my posts for indie authors you'd think I was a self-publishing machine.  Think again. This is a first for me and it is daunting.  The thing I feared the most turned out to be the easiest.  I'd heard nightmarish tales of the difficulties in uploading a book to Amazon.  I heard you needed to know how to write code.  I heard you needed a converting program.

After downloading a program to convert my ms file to mobi (the format needed for Kindle) and failing at achieving a satisfactory book to share with the public, I decided to just start the process of signing up to be an author on Amazon while I searched for another, more user friendly, mobi converter program.  I went to Amazon KDP and filled out all the forms--easy, added my tax info--easy, uploaded the cover--easy (I'd had a cover designed months ago), and arrived at the section where it says 'upload your book.'  I tried uploading the pdf  I'd prepared for the converter program. I got a message saying Amazon didn't accept pdfs.  It listed the accepted formats and low and behold, one of them was Word document.   What the??? What about all that very technical converting I needed to do?

Here's where it gets really strange: Throwing caution to the wind, I loaded the doc, waited for it to successfully upload.  Once the ms was loaded successfully Amazon asked if I'd like to see what it would look like in several different Kindle formats. I held my breath and started with Kindle Fire--perfect.  I scrolled my ebook through all the various formats and while some weren't so perfect, all looked pretty darn good.

Amazon then asked was I ready to publish. "No," I thought. "I'm doing something wrong.  It can't be this easy."  Yet after a few days of searching the internet and a conversation with my publisher, I discovered it can be that easy.

So here I am, friends, dipping my toe into the waters.  The ebook I'm publishing is a funny, snarky novella I wrote after the publication of Never Slow Dance With A Zombie called I Want You Back!  I'd been sitting on it for years.  Earlier this year, I polished it again, sent it out for an edit, and here we are. It's available for presale at $2.99 here: I Want You Back!  The book comes available on Christmas Eve (December 24th). Why not pop on over and admire my Amazon page, but DO NOT BUY IT because I'm offering the same ebook here free: E's Website. You heard right, I'm giving the ebook away and I'd rather you try it for free than buy it.

Not to toot my own horn, but some of my books have been Amazon ebook bestsellers, and not in some obscure category, either.  And I've been nominated for the prestigious ALA (American Library Association) Award, so I'm no slouch. I even wrote a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award, seriously, the Academy Award--you know, the show that's on TV every year. But I digress. The free ebook is my way of getting newer readers to try my work. All I want in return is that you sign up for my newsletter for special fans.

Please take a moment to click on the link above, and stop by my wbesite where you can hear more about the ebook & newsletter, and sign-up to receive it in time to read during the holidays.

Now that I know how easy self-publishing can be, you will be seeing more shorter works from me published by me.  My longer works will still be published by White Whisker Books--for now.  I've dipped my toe into the self-publishing waters and they're not as deep as I thought they'd be. If you're considering self-publishing, do not hesitate as long as I did.  It's not as scary as it seems. Go for it!

If you'd like a short, funny, paranormal read, head on over to my website and give I Want You Back! a try.

Keep reading- Keep Writing!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hachette, Twitter and You

This morning I read in Publishers Weekly that Hachette, the big 5 publisher, was going to start using Twitter to promote their books. Wondering if this was part of the fallout of the much talked about Hachette vs Amazon battle waged mostly in the media, I anxiously read the article.  After all, many of us use Twitter to promote our books.  I wanted to know what Hachette was going to do that I wasn't doing.  In the article, Hachette announced they were going to partner with Gumroad on an e-commerce venture. Who the heck is Gumroad?

I spent a chunk of the morning doing some research, searching for some sage words on who Gumroad was and why Gumroad was a platform we indie authors should be using.  What I discovered was a very informative article on Gumroad's blog by developer Nathan Barry.  In the piece, Barry touted that he'd sold over $355,759 in books using Gumroad.  You know that got my attention.  Click HERE to read the entire piece, but stay with me for a few minutes before you do.

Barry threw me for a loop when he said he didn't use Amazon to sell his books.  Here's what he said:

Before writing books I made all my product revenue from selling iPhone apps on the App Store. Each day I would look at the previous days sales numbers. Unfortunately that’s all they were: numbers. I would be informed “You sold x copies of this app in these countries.” That’s it.
Without customer information I had no way of contacting any of my users. That meant notification about updates, asking for feedback, and any other contact had to be done through custom code through the app—something I hadn’t taken the time to build.
That’s when it really hit me: the people who bought my app weren’t my customers, they were Apple’s. Apple was just giving me a little bit of money from each purchase, but not the customer.
I often get asked why I, as a full-time author, don’t sell my books on Amazon or the iBooks store. The biggest reason is the lack of customer information. I want to sell directly to my customers so that I can email them to ask how they like it, know who is buying it and where, and be able to build on that relationship to make my next book launch more successful than the last.

Interesting, huh? Over this past year it has become more and more obvious to me that my email list is going to be my greatest selling tool.  It isn't yet.  I'm working on it.  If you're an author, this blog post is yet another reason for you to continue to not only build, but cultivate the readers your email list.  There was a time when I held contests just to get names onto my list.  I don't do that anymore.  The names on my list are harder to come by now because they are mostly readers I have sought out because they have read and enjoyed one or more of my books.  I want to have a relationship with these people. These readers are already fans, and if I do things right, most of them will stay with me and become lifelong fans.

As authors we often feel this is our journey.  We feel it's a solitary journey, but we're wrong in feeling that way. It's a shared journey between us and our readers, but it's shared only if we open up to them.

That's it from me for today.  Food for thought. Read Nathan Barry's blog post, decide if Gumroad is for you, and think of ways to organically grow your email list.

Keep Reading--Keep Writing!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Dose of Perspective For The Holidays

I've been thinking a lot about being an author--indie or otherwise--lately.  As authors we are often looking for new ways to market our books in the hopes of reaching Best Seller status, or at least to sell more books than we're currently selling.  There's nothing wrong with that.

This year, for the holidays, I decided to offer up a large dose of perspective for myself and possibly  for those of you who are reading this and in need of some.  You know who you are.  If you're not sure--read on.

 Here's why I'm in need of perspective: My career as an author began back in 2009 with my novel Never Slow Dance With A Zombie (Tor-teen).  The book had a nice bit of success right out of the gate.  It became a Scholastic Book of The Month Club selection with an initial order of 25,000 copies.  It went on to sell many thousands more copies and was nominated for a prestigious ALA Award.  I followed this up with indie published (White Whisker Books) Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel.  Both books were instant Amazon ebook bestsellers, topping the children's-YA ebook list.  The only other author with more than one book in the top 10 at that time was Suzanne Collins with her The Hunger Games trilogy.  I was living the dream. Shortly after, my series was optioned by Hollywood for a TV show or movie.

I was feeling good about myself, but somewhere along the way I lost perspective.  I forgot why I became an author in the first place.  When my next novel, The Zombie Always Knocks Twice (Imajin books) didn't sell well I became distraught.  Then the next book (the third in The Falling Angels Saga)  Heaven Sent, came out of the box like gangbusters and then tapered off. No more 25,000 book initial orders. No more Best Seller list.  And no TV show or movie. I blamed it on my marketing, I blamed it on the market, I blamed it on all the other indie authors who were stealing my eyeballs.  The truth is, there's no blame here.  These things happen.  Some books catch on and others don't.  Some books you think aren't worth the paper (or trilobytes) they're written on become million sellers, and other books you think are worthy (like your own, maybe) struggle to sell 500 copies. Bad mouthing the success of others while bemoaning your lack of success is a trip down misery lane, and one not worth taking.  Don't do it.  It doesn't help.  All you can do is keep writing.

Let's rejoice in the fact that others are having success.  And keep writing.  When I was a salesman and people asked how could I do it, knock on doors day-after-day, I always replied "It's a numbers game.  If I knock on so many doors, I'm going to get in; if I make so many presentations, I'm going to make a sale." What we do is a numbers game as well.  So keep writing, and remember why you started writing in the first place. I started writing because I loved it.  I still do.  I love storytelling and I love sharing my work with an audience no matter how small.  Back in the day, that audience consisted only of my mother, my brother and my friends.  I didn't think 'this audience is too small.' I loved that they enjoyed my stories.  Now, thanks to Amazon, I have readers around the world.  I don't have a million readers, but that's okay.  I'll just write another book, and if I still don't have a million readers, that's okay, too. I'm grateful for the readers I do have, and for the ability to do what I LOVE without a gatekeeper telling me I can't.

I have a new book coming out some time next year, and while I'd love for it to do well, I've stopped worrying about it.  I will market my books as best as I can, and keep writing.  So, this holiday season, as you begin marketing your books for the big Christmas rush, be like me and keep in mind why we started doing this in the first place.  If you're anything like me, you're writing because you love it.  Don't look at what others have and allow it to steal your joy.  Our joy comes from what we do.  While I'm writing this for you to read, I'm writing it for me, too, to look at from time-to-time when I start losing perspective again. I'm going to end this piece with a story written by Aesop.  The Dog And His Shadow

A DOG, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.

I wish you happiness and great selling for the holidays.  Don't grasp at shadows. Let's root for everyone's success and not just our own.  And let's keep perspective. I hope you enjoyed this piece. If you have a comment or story you'd like to share with me (success story or not) I'd love to hear it. And most importantly, Keep Writing!

Happy Holidays. Peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adventures In Genre-Bending

No! I didn't say gender-bending.

My genre-bending adventure is about to begin.  I just turned the second edit/pass of my latest novel into my publisher, White Whisker Books.  I'm calling this my genre-bending adventure because it was apparent early on in the writing process that this book was not going to fit squarely into any one hole.

I started out with two ideas.  I wanted to do something about my older brother in which my older brother was a ghost.  No, my older brother is not dead, but growing up he was someone I very much looked up to, and I wanted to write about that from a young boy's perspective, a young boy needing to finish growing up without the steady hand of a brother he looked up to.  I also knew I wanted to do something like The Green Mile.  What I mean by that is, I didn't want to hit horror over the head.  I wanted my book to be more wonder--John Coffey in The Green Mile--than horror.  To this, I added a delightful romance that winds up driving the entire story.  Oh yes, and there's a monster. So I've got a thirteen year-old boy (genre, YA), a ghost with a special power (genre, Supernatural), a sweet romance (genre, Romance), the last 100 pages are a thrill ride (genre, Thriller), oh, and the monster (genre, Horror).

For the past few months I've called it a romantic-horror-thriller.  I like that, however, the first editor called it a paranormal coming of age story.  Sheesh! Confusing.

The truth is, these labels only matter in marketing.  You want to make sure your book gets into the hands of folks who will appreciate it.  If someone is looking for pure horror they may give my book a bad review.  Reviews are all important, and early reviews are the most important, so I want to make sure the book is appealing to the right crowd early on.

I did a little research on my favorite genre-bending novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (Sci-fi/ romance), and discovered most publisher's didn't want to touch the book because it was difficult to pigeon-hole.  That didn't keep it from becoming a bestseller as well as a movie. On Goodreads, I did notice from the reviews that many of the reviewers were fans of romantic novels.

Of course, The Time Traveler's Wife is about adults and my book is about teenagers. Young love might not be as appealing as adult love.  At any rate, now that I've turned it in, I't's got me thinking. Also, while I love the Wattpad cover (the book premiered last June as a Wattpad WIP. Click on the link to check it out) it's probably the wrong cover for romance and supernatural.  What do you think?  Does it matter?  I should probably come up with a new title, too, huh?  My publisher already suggested that.  What do you think?

I welcome comments from anyone, whether you've written a genre-bender or not.  I'd love to hear from readers as well as writers.  If you have a moment, please leave your thoughts. 

Anyway, here we go.  I'll keep you posted as I lumber toward publication.

Keep Reading- Keep Writing!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Guest Post from Sal Conte on Turning Up The Horror in Your Stories

This is a guest post written by my horror writing alter ego, Sal Conte (featured in photo).

I’ve been noticing a trend among less seasoned writers of scary stories.  Too many of them are in a hurry to show you how scary they can be.  They’re anxious to get to the horror. I understand this quite well.  As writers of scary stuff, the horror is our favorite part.  But allow me to drop a little knowledge I received from one Stephen King.  It was something I read a long time ago in his book Danse Macabre.  I need to paraphrase here because, like I said, I read it a long time ago, before my brain cells were destroyed by wine, women, and the ravages of time. 

Here’s what he said: To make something really scary, you need to slowly build the world the horror takes place in.  You build your world out of the ordinary, the mundane. It’s a world that the reader recognizes.  It’s very much like his own world. Then, into this very ordinary world comes the spooky stuff.

At the risk of using my own work as an example, in my current Work In Progress on Wattpad entitled, The Memory Giver, I spend quite a bit of time in the prologue talking about young Marty’s sister leaving him at home alone for the first time.  We hear a little bit about Marty’s absentee father, that the family was recently homeless, and that Allison, his sister, is desperate to have a friend.  All normal stuff.  It’s into this very recognizable world that I introduce my reader to a glimpse of horror.

Readers on Wattpad have been responding big time to this story, so I must be doing something right.  It’s because I took my time in world building before I (as Stephen King said in Danse Macabre) brought the monster out of the closet (his words, not mine). So when writing tales of horror, take your time in world building before you introduce the scary stuff. Do this well enough, and you just may be the next great scary story teller.

 If you’d like to have a look at the prologue of our horror WIP on Wattpad, go HERE.  It’s free. 

Your Pal,


Thanks, E, for sharing the spotlight with me. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your Novel To The Screen Part Deaux

A few weeks back I posted here about a recent phenomenon in Hollywood where novelists are now being allowed to write the screenplays of their novels.  In the past, this was unheard of as Hollywood always hired one of their own--often to disastrous results. In the earlier post I encouraged writers to take a look at screenwriting and into adapting their own novels for the screen.  You can find that earlier post HERE. Today I'm going to post briefly on what to do once you have a polished screen adaptation of your novel in your hands.

This is the hard part because there are no set rules to follow on breaking into Hollywood.  But there are three roads I want to tell you about to start you on your journey.  The first are services like Ink Tip who connect producers with screenplays.  Before writing this post I did a bit of research on Ink Tip and found a few bad reviews.  So buyer beware. As a producer, I have used Ink Tip and found them to be quite professional. I also found this very informative THREAD where a writer asks about Ink Tip and gets some very good advice for writers looking to break in. Please check it out.

The second place to get your screenplays noticed is through contests like Script Pipeline.  I've never submitted to them and don't know anyone who has, so I'm not endorsing them here, but when I looked them up they seemed reputable.  But again, buyer beware.  Do your own research. There are  lots of contests and lots of scam artists out there.  Take your time in finding one you think works for you.

The third and final way to go are agents.  A good agent is hard to find, hard to reach, and even harder to get to represent you.  Here is an interview with some of Hollywood's top literary agents who represent books: TOP AGENTS.  You may not be able to get to one of them, but if you read this at least you'll know who they are and what they're looking for. That's a good place to start.

I started working in Hollywood in the 80s.  I didn't know anyone when I got here, didn't have a soul to give me a leg up.  I knocked on doors--lots of them--and eventually someone answered. In the mean time, I was writing and rewriting and polishing my material.  If you're sincerely interested in breaking in and seeing your book on the screen, I suggest you do the same.

Hollywood has a ravenous appetite for books, and in today's market many novelists are adapting their own works for the screen.  New writers are being discovered everyday. The next one could be you. Often the books Hollywood chooses are not bestsellers, so don't let that be a deterrent.  If you'd like to see your book on the screen, start down that road now: Writing, refining, researching and knocking on doors.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Engine That Could--Your Mailing List

Those who know me know I’ve been on the 'build your email list' bandwagon for some time now.  As the market becomes more cluttered with indie writers writing more and more books, the marketing of our books is going to get harder and harder. Our mailing lists of go-to readers is what can keep us in the game.  As I discovered over the past few years, building this potent list is not easy.  It won’t happen overnight.  I’ve been at it for over a year now and my list is still quite small.  My mailing list, however, is like the little engine that could. 

I think I can,
I think I can,
I know I can,
I KNOW I can!

My mailing list is not very deep, but it is powerful.  Here’s a recent story that demonstrates the power of my list.  I’d been posting chapters of my latest WIP, The Memory Giver, on Wattpad all summer long.  In early September, to my delightful surprise, the book was featured by Wattpad and (like with Amazon) I noticed I had a ranking.  Just like with Amazon, the lower your ranking the more visible your book becomes to new readers.  The goal, like on Amazon, is to get to #1. The day my book appeared on the list it ranked just above #500 in horror. Because of the feature, the ranking began to drop. One day it got as low as #18. 

With Amazon your ranking is based on sales, but since Wattpad is free, I couldn’t determine what affected my ranking. I did some research and discovered to improve your ranking readers must “star” the chapters they read if they like them.  The more stars you can get in a short period of time, the lower your ranking becomes.

After the first two weeks of my feature my ranking began to climb. It was still pretty good, hovering just under 100, but I wondered if my fans on my mailing list could help get the ranking down and keep it down a little longer.  So on Sunday October 19th, I emailed my frans on my list and told them I was looking for beta readers for my latest work and what I needed them to do to become one--read the chapters on Wattpad and star the ones they enjoyed.  They acted swiftly.  On October 21st The Memory Giver dropped to #14 on the list.  Today, two days later, it’s still #15. 

I have a regular mailing list with 100s of names, but it’s just a list because I didn't realize how important my list could be when I started it. A little over a year ago I started another list, my special list. I only have a handful of followers on my special list, but look at the power they pack.  Imagine if I had hundreds or thousands of these types of followers.  I’ve now rededicated myself to adding quality names to my special list.  Eventually, I’ll phase out the other list. Imagine if we each had 10,000 loyal followers who bought everything we wrote; we’d be doing pretty well, wouldn't we?  Getting there is not going to happen overnight.  You need to build a list of frans (friend + fan = fran) who listen when you talk to them. You do this one name (one fran) at a time.

By the way, I sent a similar email to those on my regular list.  Two people (out of 400) responded. That list will definitely be phased out. We don’t just want names on our mailing lists, we want friends who we can talk to.  Like I said, building this list won’t be easy, but in a year or two, it will be worth it.  So start now to build your mailing list of special frans one name at a time.

In a future post I’ll tell you how I'm going about building my special list.  In the meantime, if you’d like to read chapters of the (as of today) #15 horror novel on Wattpad, The Memory Giver (it’s free) Go here: THE MEMORY GIVER.   If you do stop by, please remember to “star” the chapters you enjoyed.  Thank you.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing!