Blog Has Moved!

Alas, I have had enough of WordPress blogging’s system. Too much spam. Not sending notices. Too much drama for me. Click here for the new blog!!

You can now find my blog at Blogger!

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Summer Updates

June has flown by, and July is already in full swing. My writing life takes a bit of a back seat, or at least a side seat, during the busiest part of the season for Serenity Hilltop Retreat. It does grate on me to do laundry instead of writing. I can fold a mean fitted sheet in a minute flat! But it’s not the same as hours spent writing and editing. Nothing is. This too shall pass, as they say. And it’s the guest house income that allows me hours and hours of writing time in the winter and spring, so I can’t fuss too much.

I did meet my writing goals for June. Yay! And I’m on track for July. Doing the math, I need to have a solid first draft of Slinky Steps Out by the end of August so it has time to rest some before editing and revisions. That means it takes priority over The Brave, Frail, and Delicate Princess at the moment. Everything in its own time. I also have a picture book, Too Hot For Socks, out to an agent I know. Tick. Tick. Tick. Hoping to hear back by August.

Editing work with Pen-L goes forward as well. I have worked on 13 books for them since December, and another is waiting in my inbox to begin. I’m also tidying up some of the final, formatted versions of those earlier books. It’s amazing what gets past me or the issues that the formatting process creates. Check, Check, and Double Check! I must admit, there is a pure delight that comes from seeing these books formatted, appreciating the cover and what Pen-L comes up with, and then holding the final creation in my hand. Only the author him or herself can be happier. I love books!

But the most exciting is that at any moment the first round of edits and the cover proof for At the Corner of Magnetic and Main will arrive in my email box.

Street sign at the real corner of Magnetic and Main here in Eureka Springs. Can you see the spider web? Ooo. Nice effect.

Street sign at the real corner of Magnetic and Main here in Eureka Springs. Can you see the spider web? Ooo. Nice effect.

Patience is VERY hard to muster! I’ve never really been on the other side of the editing process. Not like this. With my books so far, the final decisions on anything fell to me. I could ignore and accept changes as I saw fit. What will Duke and whomever else is involved want me to change? (nail biting ensues!) More on that ahead, you can be sure. I have a page devoted to this new book here at my website. Check it out! It is due out in August.

We tried out a new event this month: the First Friday in Bentonville, Arkansas, on the square downtown.

My booth at the July First Friday in Bentonville on the square.

My booth at the July First Friday in Bentonville on the square.

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This truck was across from me all day. Not fair! I managed to resist, mainly because it was too dang hot to have genuine interest in something fried. The BBQ truck next to it blew smoke on us all day. That made it less appetizing as well, though Scott was pretty determined that he would want some for dinner. He didn’t.

It was fun, but we quickly learned that no one even really shows up until about 4:00 pm. We were set up by 10:45 am for the supposed 11:30 am start time. ZZZzzz. That made for a really long day. And about 3:00, this happened.

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And happened. It just poured for about 30 minutes. The tent didn’t suffice. We had to hide everything in the storage tubs. Several vendors just left. The rain did stop, and people did show up eventually. The live music on the corner was loud and jazzy. We sold some books. Mostly Max’s Wild Night. It has been a big hit. Here’s a link to a great new review from The Styling Librarian. Book 4 in the Cats in the Mirror series is still up next for the spring of 2016, but I may have to put Dottie’s Daring Day in for 2017 instead of Kimba’s Christmas. The dog book thing is hot!

Dottie, showing off Mindy's first knitting project. She thinks moving her book up in the line up is a tasty idea.

Dottie, showing off Mindy’s first knitting project. She thinks moving her book up in the line up is a tasty idea.

I was hoping to do the First Friday event in October as well — the only other one that works with our schedule — but I’m not sure it was worth it. At a booth fee of $75, we have to sell a lot to break even. I did meet two teachers in the area who seemed interested in having me come speak at their school. That connection would make it totally worth it. But it’s not the first time I’ve had that kind of conversation come to nothing. We shall see.

I hope you have enjoyed some of the author interviews I have been posting. It helps to fill the weeks I just can’t stop and create a blog post. Writing on my books always wins the day when time is short. Up next, I’ll be interviewing Anita Paddock about her new true crime novel, Blind Rage. I was in on the proofing of this book, and it’s really a fascinating story of what can lead a potentially normal person down the road of, well…blind rage and murder. I think this was the first true crime book I ever read. That’s not normally my thing. But this one is really good. Look for Anita here in a weeks or so.

Stay cool in this crazy summer heat. It’s about the only time I regret living on the top of a mountain, but the breeze can be amazing.

 

 

Interview With Carolyn Wilkins, Author of “Melody for Murder”

I had the privilege of working on Melody for Murder with Pen-L Publishing, and it was a thoroughly delightful book. I loved the main character, Bertie, and all the trouble she gets herself into trying to help others. You can find my review of the book on amazon.com at this link.

I’m thrilled to share this interview with the author, Carolyn Wilkins. Welcome, Carolyn!

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Tell me about your latest project.

My latest project is a murder mystery.  It is the sequel to my current book Melody for Murder, which comes out with Pen-L Publishing in June. The series features Bertie Bigelow, an African American choir director and amateur sleuth who lives on the South Side of Chicago.  At this point I’m most of the way through the second draft of the sequel to Melody and hope to have something ready to submit to Pen-L by the end of the summer.

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Click on the cover to purchase from amazon.com.

What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?

My whole family loves to read and write.  My mother is a wonderful storyteller, and my father, a lawyer by profession, wrote poetry, skits and song parodies for fun.  As long as I can remember I’ve written stories, songs, and poems.  However, I didn’t take myself seriously as an author until I published Tips for Singers in 2008.

 What is your writing practice, your writing routine?

I try to write every day.  Sometimes when things are really busy at work or I am on the road, this doesn’t always happen.  But I’ve noticed that my writing flows much better when I am able to maintain a consistent daily routine.  If possible, I try to write in the morning before my brain gets too cluttered up with other things.

I will say, however, that I am also to some degree a seasonal writer, meaning that I write a lot more during vacations when I do not have to teach.

Who are you reading now?

Of course, I read murder mysteries, lots of them.  I just finished Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes and before that Prime Time by Hank Philippi Ryan.  Today I will treat myself to Dennis Lahane’s latest – Live By Night.   I also enjoy well written and briskly paced nonfiction – Eric Larson (The Devil in the White City) is a master.  Before the summer is out I will read his newest book about the sinking of the Lusitania as well.

What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?

This is such a hard question!  There are so many great books out there, and I have a hard time picking favorites.  Three books that had a profound impact on me as a writer are:

 Roots by Alex Haley

After I finished my singing textbook, I decided to write a memoir about my grandfather, who was appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor by President Eisenhower in 1954.  At the time, he was the highest ranking African American in government.  As it turned out, he had a very rough time in the Labor Department and ended up resigning his post abruptly after only 3 years.  Haley’s seminal book about discovering his family’s hidden past was a big influence.

 When Death Comes Stealing by Valerie Wilson Wesley

This book was one of the first mysteries I read that had an African American female protagonist.  At the time (1994), this was revolutionary!  I’ve read every one of her books since.  Two other authors who inspired me in this regard are – Eleanor Taylor Bland (the Marty MacAllister series) and  Barbara Neely (the Blanche series).  All three of these series were huge for me because they showed me it was possible to write traditional mysteries with black characters.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The granddaddy of all mysteries!  I grew up reading Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Amanda Cross as a kid.  Maybe if I hadn’t, I would not be writing mysteries now.

How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?

With difficulty!  Right now, because Melody for Murder is coming out June 1, I am spending a lot of time on the web and in person promoting it.  But hopefully, once I get the book launched I’ll be able to focus more on writing the sequel.  My best advice on this is to put aside quality time for your creative work (in my case, the early morning hours) and do my social media stuff later in the evening.

 What is a typical day like for you?

When I am teaching, I try to get up at six so that I can meditate, exercise, and write a bit before breakfast.  That way, if I am too tired to do anything when I come home from work that night, at least I will have accomplished something.

Now that it’s summer, I can be a bit more relaxed. In addition to my writing, I try to make time for playing and practicing music, visiting friends, and having time to just vegetate.

Your main character in Melody for Murder, Bertie, is a choir director. I sense that you are also a music teacher and have a musical background. How much of you and your background is reflected in Bertie?

A great deal of my own background went into Bertie’s character. I am a singer, a piano player, and a choir directer. Both my mother and I have taught music in the Chicago City College system, so that part of Bertie’s story came easy for me. Of course, I also took many liberties – my experience as a teacher was considerably less exciting than Bertie’s.

What do you think is Bertie’s biggest flaw? Did you plan that, or did it evolve as you wrote?

I think Bertie’s biggest flaw is also her most endearing trait. She is, as she tells one of the characters in my book, “an inveterate optimist.” She always sees the best in people and tends to plunge into situations that a more cynical individual would regard with greater caution. This quality gets her into lots of trouble – bad for Bertie but good for readers, as it keeps the plot humming.

To some degree I planned this. But her personality also evolved and clarified itself during the writing process.

The city of Chicago is almost a secondary character in Melody. What do you love the most about that city and why did you chose to set your story there?

Often when you read books about Chicago, they take place Downtown or on the North Side, which have a very different feel. When I wrote my book, I wanted to give the reader a taste for a part of the city that is often overlooked. As I was born and raised on the South Side, it is also the part of the city that I know best.

I loved that Bertie has tea every morning instead of coffee. I’m also one of those rare people who doesn’t care for coffee. What about you? Coffee or tea?

I have to say I’m a tea person. I will drink the occasional cup of coffee, as Bertie does in the book. However, when I am at home relaxing, I (just like Bertie) prefer to put the kettle on.

The cover for your book is wonderful. Pen-L does consistently great covers for their books, but I’m wondering how much you already knew what you wanted it to look like and how much came from your publisher?

Didn’t Pen-L do a fantastic job?! When we first discussed the cover, I sent them jpegs of other covers for music-themed mysteries. But the cover Pen-L came up with is better than any of them – it is truly eye-catching.

What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?

First of all, be stubborn! Believe in yourself and in the value of your work.  Lock in your writing time and do not allow it to be interrupted.  Don’t let other people, whether they are friends, family, or book professionals, discourage you.

Second of all, be flexible. Be willing to receive and at least consider criticism that is given from a place of being supportive.  Read and study the work of authors you admire for tips, and always be ready to revise your story one more time.

Check out Melody for Murder at Pen-L Publishing’s web site, and you can sample a chapter for free!

And you can watch Carolyn’s book launch concert at this link through YouTube.

You can find Carolyn on Facebook, on Twitter, and at her web site.

Other books by Carolyn:

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Author Interview: Lily Iona MacKenzie

Welcome to Lily Iona MacKenzie for this special guest post and author interview feature.

Pen-L Publishing will be publishing Lily Iona MacKenzie’s novel Fling! in July 2015. 

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Click on the cover for more information from Pen-L Publishing.

  1. Tell me about your latest project.

It’s hard to describe a “latest project” since I’m usually working on more than one thing simultaneously. I’m revising my novel Bone Songs that will be published in 2016. I’ve just completed another novel whose focus is a young version of the main character in another novel of mine, Freefall: a Divine Comedy. And I have several short stories in process.

  1. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?

When I was 13, I started a diary, but I was afraid someone would see what I had written, so I used a coded language that I can’t remember. I would love to see those pages again so I would have a better sense of my writing self at that age. I didn’t start keeping a diary again until I was in my mid-20s and going through a deep depression. The writing was my attempt to understand what was happening. I began then to journal daily not only about what I was thinking and feeling but also recorded my nightly dreams. I’ve continued this practice ever since, learning much about myself in the process. I feel the keeping in close contact with my dreams has fed my writing and enriched my imagination.

  1. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?

I try to write a minimum of one hour per day. I usually can fit in that amount of time, and I’ve produced an amazing amount of material over the years as a result: three poetry collections, one of which is published; four+ novels, two of which are on their way to being published, and I’m sure the other ones will as well; a short story collection; travel articles; reviews; memoir; and much more.

  1. Who are you reading now?

It’s hard to say because I always have so many books on my night stand. I love the Norwegian novelist Per Petterson and have read all of his books except the last one, which is now waiting for me. I recently finished Three Light Years by the Italian author Andrea Canobbio. Francine Prose had praised it highly in The New York Review of Books, and over all it lived up to the accolades. My husband and I will be spending a month in Italy this summer, so we read John Hooker’s The Italians, a wonderful overview of the country and its people. I intersperse fiction and non-fiction with poetry since that’s a genre I also write in. I’ve been impressed with Mark Strand’s Collected Poems and have been going through it. Always much more to read than I have time for!

  1. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?

I really can’t identify three favorite books. There are too many that I love. But I can say that certain novels had a profound effect on me at different stages of my life for various reasons. When I was working on my BA in English, I took a Modern American Novel class that did exactly what Lionel Trilling said such books should do: they read me as much as I read them. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and his Light in August. Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. And many more. Each book made me aware of elements of myself that were also manifested in the characters inhabiting the books.

Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude found me at a time when I needed a model for the magical realism approach that seems natural to me and inhabits much of my work. I LOVE that book and return to it often for inspiration.

In another mode, Roberto Bolano, a Chilean writer, has also inspired me. He diverges from the more familiar magical realist vein and creates his own genre. I’ve read most of his books now, and they create a world that seems like a parallel universe to ours. He also steps beyond the usual fiction boundaries, violating our expectations of how a novel should unfold or end. I’m always entranced by his work.

And I haven’t mentioned W.G. Sebald yet, another writer who died far too young. He’s another writer who invented a new genre, a hybrid novel form. Again, I’ve read all of his work, and I’m stunned by it.

I’m sorry that all of these authors are men when there are so many female authors I love as well, including Anne Enright. I’ll read anything she writes because of her sharp wit and illuminations of contemporary life.

  1. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?

Platform has become a hated word in my lexicon. I feel we writers have become cogs in the publishing machine instead of masters of it. Of course, we don’t have to create platforms, but most publishers wouldn’t work with us if we didn’t. So I now find myself stealing precious time from my writing to keep up with the demands of social networking, finding reviewers for my novel, writing blog posts, etc. In the last week, I haven’t had time to go near the various projects I’m working on. I’m clearly not doing very well in the balancing category.

  1. What is a typical day like for you?

I’m not sure I have a typical day. I teach freshman comp at the University of San Francisco, just one class a semester now. I also am vice president of the part-time faculty union. Those two responsibilities take a considerable bite out of my day. I’ve already mentioned the marketing demands I’m dealing with. Working out is essential for my mental and physical well being, so I ride a stationary bike for 45 mins each day. Three days a week I also do strength training at a gym. I love to cook and enjoy making healthful meals for my husband and myself. I also am a great tennis and baseball (SF Giants) fan, so I squeeze these activities into some days. The writing I fold into whatever spaces are left.

  1. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?

Write. Rewrite. Write some more. Get feedback from respected editors. Revise, revise, revise. Keep writing.

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Thank you, Lily, for sharing your writing life and journey with us. I can’t wait to read Fling!

You can find and follow Lily on Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog.

“Max’s Wild Night” Is Here!!

I’m so thrilled that my fourth book, “Max’s Wild Night,” is now ready for purchase at amazon.com and at my web site, if you just have to have an autographed copy.

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You can also find the matching “Max” toy, like I have for the other books, at the shopping cart page on this website.

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The official launch day of May 1 corresponds with Max’s 10th birthday. Or at least that’s the day we celebrate it. The paperwork from the no-kill shelter where we found him says May 1, so that’s our best guess.

Happy Birthday, Max!!

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Another fun feature of this book is that my daughter, who readers know as “Leia,” did the illustrations. Within the story, I didn’t want to have real photos like I normally do because it all takes place at night. It felt like it would break the mood. Her wonderful drawings provided just the perfect touch.

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What kind of creature is this that Max meets on his adventures?

Yes, she is planning on being an art major in college, though she prefers clay.

If you want to get your hands on “Max’s Wild Night” immediately, come on down and visit me at Sharp’s Spring Craft Fair next to the War Eagle Mill in War Eagle, Arkansas. We will be there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with copies of Max’s book in hand.

 

 

Springfest 2015

Despite the rain, we had an excellent time at Springfest 2015 in Fayetteville on Saturday. There were lots of cool vendors, live music, and a dog parade. What more could you ask for from a street fair?

“Max’s Wild Night” was the sales leader for the day (and Kimba is pretty miffed about this). Scott (the money guy across the hall) nagged me about the “dog book” until I finally wrote it, and I’m thrilled to see it walking away in happy little hands.

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The new book set up with “Max’s Wild Night” now in the mix. Kids loved the Max toys!

 

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A parade of dogs highlighted the day. So many dogs in costume! I’m not sure Max would stand for that.

 

That is one chillin' pit bull.

That is one chillin’ pit bull.

The view down the street from our booth. It was a people watching dream.

The view down the street from our booth. It was a people watching dream.

Despite the fact that it rained for a few hours mid-day, we had nice book sales and wonderful conversations. Fayetteville is full of really delightful people!

You could even get some kisses, if the mood struck you.

You could even get some kisses, if the mood struck you.

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The Girl Scouts had a cookie booth next to mine. There was no way I was leaving without some cookies. Kimba and Hiro just wanted to play with the crinkle wrappers inside. It was literally their last cookie sale day of the year. Whatever didn’t sell will be donated to shelters and food kitchens. I never knew they did that with the leftovers. Wonderful.

I imagine that we will do Springfest again next year. I’d love to see how busy it is without the rain. Up next is the War Eagle Spring Craft Fair in Sharp’s Field on May 1-3 (right next to the mill). I wonder if Max will be the winner there as well.

I’m on target for my writing goal for “Slinky Steps Out” this month and just finished editing a delightful “coming of age on the river in the 1930s” Huck Finn-style book for Pen-L Publishing. Editing for “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main” starts in a couple of weeks, and it should be out in August. Very exciting!

I’ll be sharing official release information for “Max’s Wild Night” shortly. May 1 is his birthday, so that’s our big launch date. I think we have all the kinks worked out at amazon.com and are ready to roll. Good dog, Max. We should both get a treat.

 

 

 

 

National Pet Day Honors

Since it’s National Pet Day, a quick post in honor of all of our fur babies seems appropriate.

Rescue Family Photo

Buddy isn’t with us anymore, but he is an important character in my series so I include him in my table display at book events. Tabitha/Slinky also lives under another roof now that “Mindy” has gotten big enough to move out. Hey, that sounds like a good book plot.

I’ll be posting more next week with Springfest on the horizon, but today I’m editing a murder mystery for Pen-L Publishing and writing on “Slinky Steps Out.” Preparation for the Eureka Springs Junior/Senior Prom is also beginning upstairs for “Leia.” Duck and cover, everyone!

More news on the release of “Max’s Wild Night” coming very, very soon. Just waiting for the ebook formatting to be complete.

Self-Publishing Journey: Week 9

Wrap Up to the Series

Well, it is tempting to feel that this whole series was a massive waste of time. It certainly didn’t generate the kind of conversations I had hoped it would. For better or for worse, I still accomplished my own goal of thinking through the last three years of our journey here at Serenity Mountain Publishing and setting our sites on the next few years.

Looking at the Week 1 post, there are a few areas I have not touched on yet that can be easily and quickly covered.

Bookstores/Consignments: Most huge chain stores (Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million) will not touch self-published books. Unless you are really far down the road and seeing huge success, don’t waste your time. There is an application process, and you may wait a year for an answer. Make sure you are offering them a product they are confident they can sell. Sadly, the same lack of interest is pretty true of independent bookstores. They will probably only take your book on consignment, and the few that we tried ended up costing us money, even though some books did sell. There are usually set-up fees. You’ll be lucky to break even. The big exception to this is if you have a personal connection to a bookstore in your town or general area. Then you may find great support and can have a book event and may get your book featured face out (as opposed to spine out among the hordes on the shelves) as a featured local author. If you can pull that off, absolutely go for it. Otherwise, don’t spend lots of time courting bookstores.

Contests/Awards: This can be a very long conversation, but the main thought is that you want to be sure the contest is of some value and will look impressive on the cover of your book. I try to limit my attention to contests with entry fees under $100. There are lots of them. The Writer’s Digest annual contest for self-published and indie-published books offers feedback, and that’s great to have (even though I thought they nick-picked on odd things). Do awards on the cover matter? Would it matter to you if you were going to buy a book by an author you had never heard of? Keep that in mind when you decide to enter a contest. Do you stand a chance of winning? Don’t throw away entry fees. I KNOW that the awards on my book covers have helps make sales, especially the Mom’s Choice Award. That one is nice because it’s not really a contest where you are up against other books. You simply have to meet their standards to earn the honor of putting the award on your book. But I tell you, those entry fees and licensing fees cost a pretty penny, so don’t enter if you don’t think you can earn it. Research the contest. Does it look impressive? Is the cost fair? Make your calls from there.

Write a series for the biggest bang: It is a mantra you will see in every book about self-publishing out there (and hear from traditional publishers as well) – writing a series is the best way to earn a loyal fan base and make money. Even if you don’t write a series, you are going to have to write more than one book. I don’t even care about the genre thing. Just write and publish, and then do it again. By the end of 2016, I will have 6 children’s middle grade science fiction/fantasy books self-published and one adult paranormal/spiritual book plus a non-fiction children’s biography of Betty White published by an indie publisher. I have some picture books I need to send out too. I think being all over the place is fine, just write! Worry about the story and what you have to say, then get it on paper.

And that’s all I have to say about self-publishing. I’m sure there will be more here and there along the way, but that wraps up this series.

Now I’m on to more writing on “Slinky Steps Out” and editing for Pen-L and paperback and ebook proofs for “Max’s Wild Night” and spring break (well, at least the alarm clock won’t go off) in the week ahead.

Happy Spring, Y’all!

Self-Publishing Journey: Week 8

Freebies, Discount Promotions, & KDP

Well, I’ve gotten a bit off my schedule over the last couple of weeks, but my blog pretty much always takes a back seat to other work. It certainly has recently. I did make my word count goal for February, and Pen-L Publishing has two more books done with my proofreading skills. Sadly, however, I wasn’t able to attend the February meeting of the Ozark Writers League (OWL) due to a nasty ice storm that hit the night before. Travel on my mountain roads was out of the question, but in Branson they were able to pull together some workshops in the hotel and then pick up around noon when things started thawing out. Tomorrow I will be attending the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop meeting in Fayetteville and will hopefully get to see the friends I missed at OWL.

There’s not much left to wrap up on my self-publishing journey evaluation, but one area is really important so I don’t want to let it slide: freebies and sale promotions. Any self-publishing author has got to evaluate the benefits of giving away her work or offering discounted prices. It’s just part of the game. Readers of indie books expect it, but you don’t have to let yourself or your work be taken advantage of. You worked hard to write and publish that book. Freebies have their time when they can get your book into potential readers’ hands.

If you have a series, doing a freebie on Book 1 can result in sales on the other books in the series. That’s the biggest motivation out there, and I have personally found this to be true. Around here, we call “Why Kimba Saved The World” our sacrificial lamb. Doing free promotions on that book have led to increased sales for the other two. Not everyone who downloads your freebie will ever even read your book, but some of them will. Some of them will even like it. Some will purchase other books in the series. Can you hear the field narrowing down as it goes along? So make sure you get enough downloads to have those numbers at the end of the stream be high enough to make a difference.

If you are exclusive with Kindle Direct Publishing in their Select program, you can run 5 free promo days every 90 days. I use those free days pretty consistently for Book 1 in my series. Two or three days at a time is the most productive. The times I do it without much advertising it still gets hits, but when you can loop a free promo with a significant (but not super expensive) advertisement you will do even better.

Example: I was able to get a BookBub ad for a free promo on “Why Kimba Saved The World.” If you don’t know about BookBub, click on the link to find out more right now. This site is key for indie ads. I tried several times before I was accepted, so be persistent. When that ad ran, 14,000 copies of “Why Kimba Saved The World” were downloaded for free. Did you catch that number?? That gave me a big wide field, and yes, the numbers on Book 2 and Book 3 sales rose afterward and there are still months where those two are higher than Book 1.

BookBub is the only ad site I can speak to with the authority of my own experience at this point. Tweeting about a freebie offer has had limited results. @KimbaBaby often tweets about sales because the vast majority of her followers are cats or cat people. This number has doubled since our last promotion, so I will find out soon if I have any takers among her new friends. There are many sites that will ask you to pay for an ad for your freebie. Unless you expect huge results, I wouldn’t try those. Losing money is never the goal.

On March 20-22, “Why Kimba Saved The World” will be on free promo again. I will also offer Book 2 and Book 3 for 99 cents each as incentive to pick them up right then and there when making the free download. This promo will be advertised through The Fussy Librarian. The cost of advertising with this site is inexpensive, but it remains to be seen if the ad will make a difference. I’ll do a specific blog after this sale to let you know where I ran ads and if any of them worked.

Another kind of free promotion I have coming up involves the release of a new book: “Max’s Wild Night.” Through my newsletter, I will be offering a free ebook of “Max” to anyone who has published amazon.com reviews of all three of my Cats in the Mirror books. This is a new strategy for me, but I have heard it suggested by more than one indie-pub helper book. I will lose some guaranteed sales to my fans who follow my newsletter, but I also stand an even better chance of gaining good reviews on amazon.com. That is totally worth it. Maybe they will still want a paperback copy of “Max” as well. I’ll let you know how it goes. Does it sound like an offer you’d like to take me up on? Sign up for my newsletter in the right hand column next to this article (right at the top of the web page) and you can!

Are there downsides to freebies? Of course. The biggest one I have found is that people will download your book who would never buy it and, frankly, it is not anything they should have ever read. Their reviews will be bad and odd and ones you could have done without. As long as this stays within reason, and your other reviews are good, you can weather the storm. It will help get your final amazon review numbers up, and this is good thing. Discerning readers can take the reviews/comments for what they are worth and compare them to the dozens of good reviews you have.

There is also the very real chance that these freebie takers never pay for books. I mean never. They just troll freebie sites. No matter how much they enjoy Book 1, they are never going to pay even 99 cents for your other books. Those are the middle of the field. You don’t really lose anything by them getting your book, you just don’t gain anything either.

Goodreads giveaways must be paperbacks, so you are already losing money. I have done several of these. It gets you on people’s “to be read” list, but I don’t know that it has led to any sales. Tread lightly there.

I have also found that offering a book for free during a blog tour to promote it just means that no one will buy a copy then and there. If they can enter to win a free copy, why would they buy one? By the time the contest is over, they have moved on. You can give away a prize of some kind, but don’t make it that new book you hope to promote. Make them buy it if they want it.

Just a note for those who have been in the game for a while: success in free promos does you absolutely no good in your ranking at amazon.com once the promo is done. This didn’t used to be true. There used to be some carryover. If anything, it might hurt you because you won’t have any sales credited to your ranking for the days of your promo. As far as your number ranking is concerned, free days are just days with no sales. Your numbers will slide. Just be aware of that. You will be listed in the “free book” rankings, which is where those folks who like freebies go, so it’s not all bad, but it all ends with the promo. This could change tomorrow, but that’s where it stands now. I still think it’s worth it. Rankings vary and are affected by many things I can’t control. I don’t worry about them too much in the scheme of things from day to day, as long as they stay reasonable over time.

Discount prices can help boost sales a small amount. 99 cents seems to be the big price point for the most bang, and sales on these discount or “countdown” promos do count toward your ranking. Again, you are going to have to run some promotions if you want it to make a big difference. I did a BookBub ad (yes, I qualified for two, whoot whoot) for Book 2, “Vacation Hiro,” during a 99 cent promotion and sold roughly 380 copies. It was enough to send me to the #1 spot in my category for three days (beating out those Warrior books, finally!) and earn me “best seller” status forever. Totally worth it.

I had talked about KDP select wrapped into this blog, but all I can really say about it is that it works well for me. I tried having Book 1 up at Smashwords and Kobo and Barnes and Noble. Never sold a copy. When you stay with KDP select, you get the free and sale day promo options to help get the word out about your sale just on amazon.com itself. For me, this is the only way to go.

I hope all of that helps you as you make decisions for your own possible free days or sale promotions. It is still an area we are toying with. I’ll continue to let you know what I learn along the way.

Next Week: Week 9 and the wrap up to this blog series on my self-publishing journey.

If you’re in the area, join me Saturday for the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop event. It’s free!

2015-conference

My winter newsletter goes out in a few days, so make sure you sign up to get that free “Max’s Wild Night” ebook offer. The details will only be in that newsletter!

My writing goal for the month is fairly low: 5,000 words on “Slinky Steps Out.” I have been moderate with that because paperback formatting for “Max’s Wild Night” is well underway with the ebook formatting on the horizon and these require my attention. I also have another editing project coming from Pen-L before the end of March. You will notice, however, that I don’t get a pass for the month or a zero word count goal. Book 4 is not going to write itself.

Just Keep Writing!

 

Self-Publishing Journey: Week 7

Week 7: Book Releases and Production Scheduling

I have learned to approach a book release schedule in self-publishing rather like a wedding. Pick your date and then start planning at least six months in advance. This is if you self-publish and the book is already complete. Traditional publishing is more like a one year or more timeline. With only one book to focus on, you can move things along faster.

Since it is the book I have in production now, I can use “Max’s Wild Night” as an example. The story was finished in November. That was a deadline I set because I wanted to officially launch the book on Max’s 10th birthday: May 1, 2015. I have done that same type of thing with the books in the cat series, and I do lots of sales around the character’s real birthdates. It serves no purpose but being fun, and it makes me happy. You may have other things that drive the dates related to your book release. I really had to push myself to get the final draft done (a retreat was involved), but I’m glad I did. The rest of the process would have fallen behind otherwise.

Here’s basically how I have the self-publishing production process scheduled.

  • Book draft done by end of November.
  • Revision and editing done before Christmas vacation.
  • Beta readers doing their work over the vacation.
  • Time to let the book rest until mid-January. (Really. You need to step back.)
  • My final revisions/edits done by end of January.
  • Pause for income for guest house season to begin so I can pay contractors. This is important!
  • Manuscript to the editor by mid-February (already on her radar).
  • Cover design begun mid-February (already on her schedule).
  • Formatting & CreateSpace set up begins by the start of March.
  • Do newsletter offering free “Max” ebooks for reviews on Cats in the Mirror books & promoting new book as soon as cover is ready.
  • All drawings/photos done and in place by mid-March (spring break end).
  • Formatted book to ebook designer by late-March (after spring break).
  • Set up mini blog tour schedule by late-March.
  • Have paperback proof ordered from CreateSpace by first week in April, at the latest.
  • (Will there be a spring War Eagle Fair? Paperbacks will need to be ordered by second week in April to make it in time!)
  • Ebook versions ready for reviewers by second week in April.
  • Everything on amazon.com set up and ready to roll by April 24th.
  • Create book release online event through Facebook by April 26th.
  • Official book release on May 1st. Happy Birthday, Max!

You can certainly give yourself exact dates if that helps motivate you. I have just learned that some things along the way can slow plans down. Book cover design is a big one. If you have a good designer, chances are pretty high that they will have other projects going. You won’t just be able to get yours back in two days. There is also some back and forth that may take a week or more once your project is started. We ended up having to delay the promotion of “Why Kimba Saved The World” by a few weeks because the designer we wanted was involved in another project. We had to wait our turn.

Getting your cover design going early is also important because you will need that cover to promote the book. It’s much more effective to say “Here’s my next book” and show a cool cover than it is to just talk about what the book will be. Your cover is your best marketing tool. That’s another reason to make sure it is awesome.

So far I am on track for “Max’s Wild Night.” I had been in touch with both the editor and cover designer to let them know when I was expecting to send them their part of the book so I could get a note in their schedule and find out if there were any conflicts. That helps everyone involved if you have definite release dates in mind.

That being said, you don’t have to make any special release dates. Odds are good you are not planning a physical book signing tour that needs dates set up months in advance. Linking to a holiday or personal event is just fun. It helps get you and others excited about the new book.

As far as the book release itself, don’t go overboard. If you have a party, you will mostly get your friends and family, and they will probably buy your book anyhow. Facebook live events can be fun. Give away prizes, but I would steer away from giving away copies of the new book. If folks think they might win a copy, they won’t buy a copy. By the time winners are announced, they will have moved on.

For the release of “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main” in September, we will be having a live event here on our property. First, I just want to have a party with my friends and fellow writers to celebrate. Second, the book is set locally and we have contacts in the business community. An event is a good chance to get the word out, get an article in the local papers, and sell some copies to people I might not have a chance to otherwise. I will also run an internet event that evening with video from the afternoon, including my live reading. That’s a chance to spread the love to friends and family who cannot possibly attend the live party. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that when the time comes.

Just keep in mind that you are a very small publishing company of one. Don’t throw lots of money at an event unless you can be sure it is worth it. Blog tours are a less expensive and easier way to spread the word about your book, as mentioned in an earlier post.

Celebrate sharing your book with the world!

In Two Weeks: Freebies, KDP, & Discount Promotions

I won’t have time to blog next Monday because I’m attending the Ozark Writer’s League quarterly meeting on Saturday

Owl

and the Oscars (also known as a high holiday in my home) are on Sunday. It doesn’t really seem like anyone is reading these anyhow, so who will notice? I may blog about the OWL conference and some books I’m reading, but it won’t be part of the series.

I am on track for my writing goal for the month of 10,000 words on “Kimba’s Christmas,” and editing, cover creation, and artwork are underway for “Max’s Wild Night.”  So let it snow. Just don’t let us lose power. I’ll keep writing.