GIVING BIRTH ONCE AGAIN!

I feel like I’ve just had another child! COYOTE SERIES (BOXED SET) http://ow.ly/APiSg just went up on Amazon. This combines the three Coyote books, Blue Coyote Motel, Coyote in Provence, and Cornered Coyote. A number of people said they’d like to read all three in order, thus the boxed set.  They all are “stand-alone” books, but I thought it was a good idea. Here it is!3D (1)

If you haven’t read one or all of them, here’s a brief summation:

“Discover why this trilogy of fast –paced, suspense novels has received over ‘175’ five star reviews on Amazon, has been a Chanticleer CLUE award finalist, a Quarter finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest, been featured in the Top Ten Books at Authorsdb, been the Book of the Month at several Book Clubs and is at the top of a few good lists on Goodreads.

The story revolves around the rags to riches rise of Maria Brooks who marries a deranged genius working in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug addiction, anti-aging, art theft, murder and the reader’s favorite – Slade Kelly, a flawed, noirish undercover detective makes this an engaging and entertaining read. The action spans the globe – from the barren deserts of California to the snow-capped Himalayas, with stopovers in breathtaking Provence, ritzy New York and windy Chicago.

Sweet, orphaned Afghan girls, dreaded gangsters in the mafia, dirty politicians and unscrupulous businesses make their presence felt as the series weaves along at a sprightly pace. “Will Maria go to prison ‘forever’? Will Slade die in a gun battle with the FBI? Will the motel guests be able to break the inadvertent drug habit they picked up at the Blue Coyote? Who are those little Afghan girls in the barn in Provence? Will Jordan and Maria ever find happiness?”

Enjoy! 

DOES HUMOR BELONG IN YOUR BOOK?

Yankee Club with the rose

Michael Murphy is one of my favorite authors. I discovered him when his novel, Goodbye Emily, was recommended to me. If word of mouth helps to sell a book, I should get a prize for the number of people I’ve told about it. If you’ve heard of Woodstock or can remember it, you’ve got to read the book. When I learned that he had a new book out, I asked if he’d write a column for my blog and here it is. Trust me, this is someone who knows humor well and we can all learn from him!

Four Reasons Authors Should Incorporate Humor in their Writing

Many authors are hesitant to utilize humor in the stories, even though readers love humor in most any genre. Nelson DeMille interjects humor in fast-paced frightening thrillers. Stephen King’s stories are chilling and often absurdly humorous which he uses to enhance scenes and characters.

Writing humor is not as difficult as some writer imagine. Humor results from conflict, the same as drama. The perspective is different.

Think of two great slapstick comedians, Charlie Chaplin and Dick Van Dyke. They could fall down stairs or struggle to lift a heavy object and it’s funny. In other situations, other stories, a fall down stairs would be a tragic.

There are many reasons for authors to utilize humor in their writing:

  • Humor can complement suspense by temporarily lessening tension
  • Enable an author to address serious issues
  • Allow an author’s work to stand out from others in their genre
  • Enhance characterization

Humor has always been an important part of my writing, even in my recently released historical mystery set in 1933, The Yankee Club. The story unfolds during the Prohibition-era in New York City.  This is my 9th published novel, but I’ve never attempted to write a true historical fiction and wondered whether I’d be able to capture the life and times of 1933, particularly whether my humor would translate to life in the thirties.

The use of humor in my previous novel, Goodbye Emily, allowed me to address serious issues faced by aging baby boomers. Of the three principle characters in that novel, one struggled with broken heart syndrome over the loss of his wife, his career and the possible separation with his only daughter. Another, a Vietnam vet, struggled with drugs and PTSD. The third had been placed in a nursing home with Alzheimers.

Without humor, the novel would present these conditions in a more serious manner and would no doubt depress readers rather than offer an optimistic look at the future of our aging baby boomers, the novel’s theme. Equally as important, the main character, Sparky, would be presented with a more sullen makeup.

In 1933, our country’s economy was on the brink of collapse, and Prohibition had led to the rise of organized crime. 12 million people were out of work. Many were homeless, and some turned to extremist politicians, Nazis on the right and communists on the left. Nothing funny about that at all.

The humor in The Yankee Club addresses these issues within the framework of a mystery based on historical events. The two main characters grew up in modest homes in Queens, but at the start of the novel, Jake Donovan is a successful mystery writer and Laura Wilson is a popular Broadway actress. Both deal with guilt over their successes which have isolated them from the poverty suffered by most.

Jake and Laura find themselves in danger often in The Yankee Club. Humor diffuses the suspense, enhancing the tension at the same time. Like I did in Goodbye Emily, I created humorous scenes and characters so the story would unfold while addressing the difficult issues of the times. My goal was to weave mystery and romance much like the movie series that inspired the story, The Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I encourage authors to look for ways to utilize humor within their genre the same way they create drama; utilize conflict in a scene. Humor will enhance the drama and the work will stand out from the crowd.

******************************************************************************The Yankee Club   http://www.amazon.com/Yankee-Club-Jake-Laura-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00IHMFANK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409068819&sr=1-1&keywords=the+yankee+club

A mystery writer returns to the bright lights and dark alleys of New York City—uncovering a criminal conspiracy of terrifying proportions.

In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.

Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.

A FAMILY REUNION? YOU’VE GOT TO BE CRAZY!

I’ve mentioned before that I contribute to the Huffington Post. Here’s my latest article on “the dreaded family reunion.”file000773519295

I remember when it started. A year and a half ago my husband walked into my office and said, “Guess what? My brother just e-mailed me and he thought it would be a great idea if we had another family reunion. What do you think? They’re looking at some place in California.”

A million thoughts flooded through my mind. What if they want to come to our house? What will I feed everyone? Where will they stay? Where will they go? One of the secrets of a long marriage is knowing when not to say what you’re thinking. I replied, “Sure, that would be great. Why don’t you write them all and suggest several places, like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Southern California.”

This was my husband’s side of the family, a small family, but still…that would still add up to a lot of work. Copious emails later we discovered everyone wanted to come to Southern California — home of Mickey Mouse and the beach — and where we lived. Our daughter and her family live close by and our son and his wife, Seattleites, would stay with us. Nineteen people (not counting the animals who would accompany the people) would be attending the reunion.

The first thing to do was pick a date. No problem. Found one that worked for everyone. We never thought to consult the local Huntington Beach calendar. Next on the “to-do” list was to secure housing for the rest of the group. We live in Huntington Beach, close to the Pacific Ocean, so that was a no-brainer — had to be a hotel on the beach. Right? Wrong! Found out the U.S. Pro Surfing Championship was being held that week and the room rates were understandably elevated. When you live near the beach and you’re in the tourist industry, there’s a small window for making a major profit and this was definitely the profitable season.

Many motels and hotels later we found one that worked. Next on the list was to figure out, based on arrival and departure schedules, how many people would be eating meals at our home and when. That was the difficult part. Everyone was arriving at a different time and taking off at a different time. I finally resorted to a spreadsheet. I decided to have bagels, sweet rolls and make-ahead casseroles for breakfasts. Lunches would be a “make it yourself sandwich bar.” Between the beach, Disneyland, shopping (that was a priority for the teens and early twenty set — fortunately our daughter is “queen of the outlets” and was happy to take on that role), I had no idea how many people would make it to the house for those meals.

My husband pulled up information on all of the different places they could go, kinds of things they could do, and made more lists. He also emailed everyone a map with directions on how to get to our house. This turned out to be critical because people landed at airports in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Ana — and some even drove. Naturally, the City of Los Angeles, in its infinite wisdom, decided to close down the major arterial street to the Los Angeles International airport during their stay. I still find it hard to believe that a city the size of Los Angeles cannot find another time for street repairs — July in Southern California??? Peak tourist time??? What were they thinking???

My husband emailed everyone to get the T-shirt sizes for all the attendees and we had them made with “Harman Family Reunion” superimposed over crossed surfboards on a dark blue background (after all, Huntington Beach is “Surf City!” Everyone was required to wear theirs for the “photo shoot” on the last night. We gathered up “boogie boards” the beach crowd could use for modified surfing. We packed duffel bags full of towels, knowing they wouldn’t have space in their luggage to bring any.

Lists for meals, lists for ingredients, what to get when so it wouldn’t spoil. How much could I make beforehand and freeze? My desk was littered with lists! We had people arriving from North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, and Washington. That includes a lot of different food likes and dislikes, never mind that the ages ranged from 76 to 4 ½. We had a popcorn machine complete with sacks. For dessert there was cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, cookies, and frozen popsicles, etc. for the little ones. Casseroles, hamburgers, barbecued salmon (on the slow night when most of the attendees were at Disneyland), and a Mexican fiesta the last night complete with margaritas. Don’t think bottled bubbles are a part of a fiesta, but the children loved them. The afternoon before the fiesta my son and I went through boxes of family photos and put the relevant ones on a large oak table in the house.

I had a conversation (actually it was more of a plea) every morning with the wind gods regarding the ocean breeze that comes up at 3:30 in the afternoon and makes eating on the patio impossible. Fortunately, they listened and cooperated with a rare inversion that left the evenings wind free and warm.

Were there foul-ups? Of course. Somehow my grandson’s (age 8) T-shirt was an adult medium. He was not thrilled with wearing it to the family “photo shoot,” but was a good sport. It came off immediately after the shoot. Somehow I lost eight hamburgers. We made them ahead of time and put them in the freezer. I took the patties out of the freezer the morning we were going to have them for dinner and didn’t see the two packets on the bottom of the freezer. Fortunately, we had just enough even without the “ones hiding.”

As we get older, we realize how precious family is. A shared history, genes, and relatives bring one together in a way nothing else can. Was a good time had by all? I think so. But I wonder if they all slept as well as I did the night they left!

Will it find a place in one of my books? Probably!

***WHAT DOES YOUR MUSE LOOK LIKE?***

BCM_KDP 1.0

I have no idea why, but I picture my Muse as a woman who escaped from a fairy tale. She’s got long black hair, a purple robe trimmed in ermine, and vivid blue eyes.

She generally comes to me around three a.m. and whispers in my ear. My muse tells me stories that I need to tell, characters I need to write about, social issues that need to be aired, and solves the problems I’m having with a story lines and situations. I never know when she’s going to pay me a visit, but I’ve learned to keep notes after each visit!

The first time she appeared it was in Palm Springs, California. My husband and I were at a wedding and it was 107 degrees in October. The wedding was to be held outside. The old boutique hotel the wedding party had taken over had recently been renovated and the air conditioner was completely silent. Words tumbled out of my mouth that only could have come from the Muse. “Tom,” I said to my husband, “wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a ‘feel-good drug’ in the air-conditioning and everyone felt good all the time?” I remember thinking, where in the devil did that come from?

He pointed his finger at me and said, “There’s your book.” And so it was. The Muse opened the door for the Coyote Series. First came Blue Coyote Motel, the tale of guests who stay at a motel and become inadvertently addicted to a “feel-good” drug and the havoc it wreaks on their lives. I thought that would be the end of my writing career, but everyone who read it wanted to know what happened to Maria, the protagonist. The Muse whispered that a book should be written about Maria in Provence, oh, it said, and be sure to weave in something about your experiences as an art and antique appraiser and don’t leave out the fabulous food in you ate when you were in Provence! Coyote in Provence  was born. Then the Muse whispered that people wanted to know what happened to Maria and Jordan, who met in Provence. And what about Noor, the little Afghan orphan? I answered the Muse and wrote Cornered Coyote.

While I was finishing up that book, one night the Muse urged me to get up and write down what she was going to tell me. She told me of a woman who could see numbers above people’s foreheads and that Slade Kelly, everyone’s favorite private investigator, who’s prominent in Coyote in Provence and Cornered Coyote, should have his own series and this should be the first book in the series. The working title is Red Zeroes. I’m about half-way finished with it.

Two nights ago the Muse was at it again, telling me about the second novel in the series. Now I can’t wait to get to it.

My question for all of you, how does a Muse become born and how do you get one? Or is my Muse unfaithful, visiting other authors in the middle of the night? And why did she wait until this time in my life to appear? Did I have to go through a lot of experiences to merit a Muse? Inquiring minds…

What does your Must look like?

Blue Coyote Motel  http://smarturl.it/bcmo

Coyote in Provence  http://smarturl.it/cipr

Cornered Coyote  http://smarturl.it/CorCoy

I LOVE MY READERS!

We authors write because we have no other choice. My personal Muse usually appears about three a.m. and keeps me occupied with plots, characters, etc. until it’s time for that first cup of coffee.  The Muse is very firm in what my next endeavor will be! At times, I think I’m held captive by my Muse and I would venture that most other authors feel the same way.

BCM_KDP 1.0

 

However, without people to read what we write, the process loses its joy. I want to hear from people. I want to know what they liked, what they didn’t, what touched them, and what didn’t. The input from my readers help me to become a better writer. That I definitely know!

And this I have to share. It makes the hours spent in solitude well worthwhile and I can’t think of a better way to start the week than to find this in my Monday morning email!

“Just finished Blue coyote motel and book 2 great books ready to read #3 really great loved them!!! Thank you”

No, dear reader, it is I who thank you!

Blue Coyote Motel  http://smarturl.it/bcmo

EVER BEEN HIT BY A TROLL? BETTER READ THIS!

51efEx2tTyLjesus51RK9Inef4L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
My friend, Duncan Whitehead, is one of the funniest people I know. I absolutely love his books, The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, winner of  2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award Winner and Gold Medalist), The Reluctant Jesus, and An Actor’s Life, a short story. I highly recommend all of these books.
If you’re an author, you’re probably aware of what are called “trolls” that hang out on Amazon and Goodreads. You may have even been the victim of one or more. I have. I think it was Truman Capote who said everyone should have (and I paraphrase) “fifteen minutes of fame.” Well, these trolls get their fifteen minutes by posting scathing one star reviews of books that one doubts if they’ve even taken the time to read – but they get to see their name or pseudonym in print!
Duncan wrote an article on this phenomenon which was recently published. When I read it, I immediately asked if I could reprint it. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve had the pleasure of reading. If you’re an author and you’ve ever been attacked by one of these “trolls,” you’ll never look at another “troll” review without laughing, and that’s a very good thing. If you’re not an author, read it for the humor and when you see a “one star troll review,” picture this woman writing it. Enjoy!

Monday, 4 August 2014

image for Goodreads Troll Spends Three Months Writing Review
Just Waiting For The Sequel So She Can Review It – Not That Anyone Gives A Shit
A prolific book reviewer on popular website (and troll cave) ‘Goodreads’ has finally completed writing her 40,000 word, 1 star review for New York Times bestselling novel “The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club” – calling her review a “masterpiece” but the book “utter crap.”

Beth Varicose, 57 – morbidly obese, ugly, sex-starved and who drives around Wal-Mart in one of those little electrical shopping carts; described the book as “One of the worse books ever written. I hated it, I hate the author, I hated the whole concept. Why did I waste 4 days and $1.99 on this garbage.”

Varicose, who lives alone in North Florida, apart from a herd of cats – one of which she breast feeds – dedicated not only 3 months to writing her review but let it consume her whole life, or, what there is of it. Posting under the “troll” pseudonym “Miss Demeanor” she complains “What I hated most was the author, he is an atheist, he swears a lot, he is so god dam good looking and he ignores my tweets, my e-mails and for that I want everyone to join me in hating him and his book.”

She then goes on to use multiple exclamation marks.

At time of press her review has been read twice; and failed to influence anyone from purchasing the book.

Varicose, according to her profile photo on “Goodreads”, enjoys cakes and sports a very unsightly mustache, is expected to start on another 1 star review soon – as soon as the sequel to the “worse book ever’ is published.

Here are some links to his wonderful books:

DUNCAN WHITEHEAD
NY TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR (2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award Winner and Gold Medalist)
(2014 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award Nominee) 
 

AUTHORS, YOU NEED TO READ THIS! #ASMSG

 

file000852154185

In one of the Goodreads groups I’m a member of, I recently read a post by Edward M. Wolfe, the author of Kendra’s Spirit, http://www.amazon.com/Kendras-Spirit-Edward-M-Wolfe-ebook/dp/B00KYIEVGM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1406995295&sr=1-1&keywords=Kendra%27s+spirit,

Quite simply, it was one of the best researched and informative things I’ve read for new authors. I was so taken with the article I asked Mr. Wolfe I could put it in my blog and here it is. Enjoy and learn!

Q. How do I get honest reviews?

A. Reaching out to bloggers is a good idea, if you can find some that are not overwhelmed with prior commitments. Be sure to only query bloggers who review your genre. Many bloggers will also have specific guidelines on how to query them. Read these, and follow them with precision.

You can also give your book away to people who will review it. There are groups on Goodreads where you can list your book, and anyone who is interested in reading and reviewing it will reply. Then you email them the book in the format they choose from those you said you have available.
Authors Requesting Reviews

Another Goodreads group has a form of review exchanges, but you do non-reciprocal reviews, so it’s not a tit-for-tat, lacking credibility.
Review Group

You can also do a giveaway on Goodreads. This isn’t guaranteed to get you reviews, but it might. The more you give away, the better your chances, but be aware that this is an expensive route with no guarantees. It’s especially expensive if you make your giveaway eligible to foreign countries. The slowest shipping isn’t cheap, and you have to fill out a customs form.

Some people believe there is additional value in the exposure your book will receive when hundreds, if not thousands sign up for the giveaway. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who sign up barely glance at the book’s description, but rather, just hit the Enter Giveaway button and go on to what they were doing before they encountered the giveaway. Sure, it might really entice some people, but you have to put yourself on the other side of any marketing you’re thinking of doing. Have you ever entered a giveaway, failed to win, and then gone back to buy that book, or another book by that author?

It’s one thing to want something and learn that you have a chance to win it. It’s another thing to simply learn that something is being given away, so you enter just because you can, because – hey, free stuff.

I would not recommend paying for reviews. Not even Kirkus, or anyone else who sells reviews.  I also would not exchange reviews directly with another author. You might not like each other’s books, and yet still be obligated to give a review. Do you give a bad one because you want to maintain your personal integrity? What if they wrote you a good one, genuine or not? It’s just a messy situation that you probably don’t want to find yourself in.

A good way to promote your book is to have it included in a newsletter that is sent out to subscribers who actually want to know about new books. Websites that do this usually specialize in free books, but some also feature low cost books.  One such site that has been doing this is now going to try something new. that is like the “read for review” giveaway described above.

For a $20 fee, ChoosyBookworm.com will list your book as being available to readers who would like to read it and review it at no cost to them. This could be a win for all three parties. The intention is for you to get at least $20 reviews. Initially, the site owner said that he would keep listing your book until you got 20, but I think he’ll be revising that commitment after the first trial in September. I just signed up for the September listing so I can’t say yet how effective it is.

I said that I would not pay for reviews, but in this case, you’re paying for the chance to get reviews from people you don’t know, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get good reviews, or really, any at all. But don’t let the possibility of bad reviews scare you off. Believe it or not, a book with nothing but good reviews is viewed by some people as suspicious. This really sucks if you write something really great and everyone loves it, but you can see where they’re coming from. It’s more realistic that not everyone is going to love a particular book. Some people just have to be unhappy with it.

My latest novel has this problem. Nine 5-stars and one 4-star. I can’t wait till somebody hates it. Or at least has something critical to say about it. Then my good reviews will gain credibility. Somewhat. Maybe.

Q. What’s the best approach to promoting on social media?

A. I think social media is over-rated when it comes to promoting books, but it’s probably something you can’t just ignore either. You want a presence, but don’t use the presence for the purpose of spamming. Read my blog post about The Art of Not Marketing on Social Media for more on this.

Q. What’s better – Amazon or Smashwords (and all the other retailers)?

A. Everyone I’ve ever talked to, or read about has said that they get between 60 and 90 percent of their sales from Amazon. And that’s not just U.S. authors. (Which reminds me, if you’re from another country and will be promoting your book to the U.S., it’s probably a good idea to have your book edited for U.S. English so you don’t confuse some readers. If you’re reading this, and you’re from England, imagine if I said I was going to spank your fanny. That’s an example of how  foreign slang can say the totally wrong thing to someone in another country.) My experience matches that of other authors, except in my case, I can say that 100% of my sales is from Amazon. I only gave the other retailers a one month chance to see what would happen, but in that one month I sold a couple hundred on Amazon, and nothing on iBooks, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, and wherever else. After that, I promptly made my book exclusive to Amazon and instead of doing the free days from KDP Select, I chose Promotional Countdowns, which resulted in an increase in sales.

Q. Should I be exclusive to Amazon?

A. Considering that most people get the majority of their sales from Amazon, there’s not a huge downside to being exclusive. Granted, I only gave the other retailers a month to compare to Amazon, and that’s insufficient to declare empirical results. If you go exclusive though, that means you cannot even sell your book on your own website. It can’t be sold or given away anywhere else.

I’m leaning heavily toward Amazon exclusivity although my latest novel is currently on Smashwords and the list of retailers they distribute to. I’m trying to give it more than a month this time to see if it’s worth having it with the other retailers. The only problem is, it’s not even selling on Amazon, so it’s impossible to make a comparison this time.

If you’re still not sure which way to go, I’d say go with Amazon, and go exclusive. You can always opt out three months later. And you should also know that those who say they get 10% or more of their sales on iTunes – those people have been selling for years and have developed a fan base. I think it makes more sense to start on Amazon, and if you have a degree of success, then branch out to other retailers once you no longer need the promotional advantages of being exclusive with Amazon.

Q. Should I do paperbacks with CreateSpace or someone else?

A. I have only used CreateSpace after looking at several alternatives. Here’s the first major difference: You can have your book ready for print-on-demand via CS at zero cost. You can upload it today and sell it tomorrow. If your document is properly formatted, you shouldn’t have any problem. If you can follow the instructions for the cover, you might have some problems. But if you’re only a little bit off, CS will adjust it for you, and if you like the way it looks, then you approve it, and you’re book becomes available immediately.

CS has forums with helpful articles on how to do each step, and there are friendly people there who will usually help. If you’re good with Photoshop (or Gimp, which is free) you’ll be okay. If not, ask your graphic artist friend to help, or hire someone to make the cover-ready image for you. We’re talking about putting your front cover, back cover, and spine into a single, precisely measured template that is sized based on the number of pages in your book. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Q. What price should my book be so it’s not too low or too high?

A. I don’t know if a book can be priced too low. There is an opinion that a low-priced book is an under-valued book. As if you’re telling the world, “My book is only good enough to be worth 99 cents.”  I don’t think that holds a lot of water with readers. While it’s true that your book at 99 cents is a clear signal that you’re not a bestselling author, or even a mid-list author, the fact that you’re self-published already gives that away. Combine that with the fact that the reader who’s considering whether to buy your book or not has never heard of you. That’s a big clue that you’re not big and famous. Yet.

Also, flip it around. Have you ever been interested in buying a book that got your attention and curiosity and decided to skip it because the price was too low? That’s never happened, right? You were more likely to be happy that you got it at such a low cost. If it was true that low-priced books communicate lack of quality, then all free books would be considered total crap and no one would download them. But we all do. And we even love some of them. Then we go back and see what else that author wrote, because once we find a good thing, we want more of it. (Which is where the value of KDP Select free days is useful, but don’t assume that 1000 books downloaded means 1000 books read. And it’s also only useful when you have something for that return reader to buy. Only have one book? Publish your best (and longest) short story as an ebook that you give away so readers who come back might buy your novel.)

Pricing your book low doesn’t necessarily mean people will just pick it up and not read it. That’s far more likely to happen when your book is free.  I don’t think you can go too low. And if your book starts moving, then bump it up a little. If the sales continue, raise it again. If they stop, put it back down. Find the sweet spot for your book.

The biggest errors people make is over-pricing. I saw a book of poetry priced at $9.99 and it was about 30 pages. The book had no rank. That means no one had ever bought it. And no one will at that price for so few pages from an unknown author. When you’re starting out, don’t even think about money. I’m assuming that’s not why you’re doing this. Quitting your job to write full-time would be a dream come true for any true author, but you’re just starting out. The important thing right now is to get read. Period. You need people to read your book if you’re ever to have any level of success whatsoever. Price it low. Give it away. Hand it out in public. You need readers!

Some authors are concerned about whether they’ll get their full royalty from Amazon Unlimited. Unless you’re moving a significant number of books every month – who cares? Will it make a difference to you if you get $2.00 instead of $3.00 on the sale of 5 books? I sure hope not. That brings me back to another argument in favor of being exclusive to Amazon. Now you can get “sales” from people downloading your book for free. As long as they read at least 10% of it, you get paid. If they hate it, you don’t have that awful sight of seeing on your sales stats that you lost a sale because someone got a refund. If they hated it after 10%, you still get paid for the sale. Amazon Unlimited is another thing that is too good to be true and I expect Amazon to change the terms later.

If you have a good story in a popular genre, and a good-sized book, I’d start with $2.99 and see how it goes. Amazon has a beta program that will suggest a price to you. Notice when you get to that step in the publishing process that it’s recommending a price based on making the most money per unit. In the fainter line, you can see which price point resulted in the most sales. That’s the one you want. Forget the profit. You’d probably rather have more sales at a lower profit, (which is how Sam Walton built the WalMart empire) than high profit on few sales.

Q. Should I hire a marketing agency or PR firm?

A. I definitely do not recommend using a marketing agency – at least not the type that will promise to promote your book on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., and send out X number press releases. I don’t care how many followers they have. When is the last time you bought anything from a Facebook ad? How about the last time you bought a book from a Facebook ad? Tweet 100,000 people, and how many are sitting at their computers at the exact moment your tweet comes flying by? How often are you sitting at your computer reading all of the incoming tweets? I don’t know anyone who does that. We’re usually either tweeting, or reading a specific person’s tweets – not looking at the endless stream of incoming.

When did you last buy a book because you read a press release? I never have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press release about a new book coming out. Who does that? If you’re small, no one would read it, and no one will publish it. If you’re big – there will be plenty of buzz before the book hits the shelves, making a press release superfluous.

Q. Isn’t it amazing? I already received an offer from a publishing company!

A. If you received a letter in the mail, or an email from a publishing company telling you that they’re interested in your book – throw it away. If they call you, politely hang up. These are companies who will charge you a fee to publish your book for you. Tate Publishing for example will require a $4,000 investment from you to “co-pay your marketing expenses.” They of course will be paying the lion’s share, and you only need to pay this small percentage.

Such “publishers” are only publishers to the extent that they will help you put your book together, and then they’ll make it available on Amazon and possibly other retailers, and they’ll put it on CreateSpace, or maybe a different print-on-demand company, and then they’ll price your book way too high to sell, and they won’t do anything substantial to promote it.

Vanity e-publishers only accomplish a few things for those who can’t figure out how to do them, like making your Word document into an epub for Smashwords or Kobo. Uploading your document to Amazon for you. Formatting your document so it looks  like an actual book. These are good things to have done, but not at the cost of your rights to your own book, and a good percentage of your royalties – if you get any at the inflated price.

Once you’re in with these companies, you’re in for the duration unless you prevail in a lawsuit for breach of contract. You are far better off hiring out these tasks, or learning to do them yourself. There are books on how to publish on Kindle.

Here’s one that’s free. I think it’s the one I read before I published my first book.
Building Your Book for Kindle

E-pubishers will also make your cover. This is one of two things you might need to spend some money on. Look for a pre-made cover that fits your book well, or if money is no object, hire an artist to custom create your cover. Don’t be lured by the lullaby of an e-publisher promising to do all of the things you couldn’t do yourself. You can buy a cover. You can pay someone to convert your books. You can learn to upload them. But if you let an e-publisher do it all for you, the one thing you need the most is the one thing you’ll still be left having to do for yourself – and that’s promoting and marketing your book and getting it in front of readers.

Q. How do I promote my book if social media is out, and marketing firms are a waste?

A. There are readers who subscribe to newsletters about books that are on sale, or that are in the genre they like, etc. Places where readers go to find out about new books is a great place for your book to be. Not in a press release or a YouTube trailer. (Have you gone to YouTube to find out if there are any new books coming out?)

Places like bookbub.com, bookdaily, choosybookworm, and those types of sites. Some of them have free promotion options and some will sell promo spots.

I did ebooksoda.com when it first launched and was free. I got 7 sales that day. It’s hard to say if I got them because of the promo or not. I think it costs $5 now for a promo there. It might even be more effective now that they’ve had time to grow. I’ll try it again and find out. It’s cheap and worth trying.

In addition to getting on these promotional emails, whether you have to pay or not, there are other things you can do. Include a link to your book or your website in your email signature. Reply to every email you receive, even if it’s from a stranger by accident.  🙂

Put your book cover on whatever social media you use. It’s not just to advertise to the same people who will see it everyday, but it’s also to have it in more places on the internet. It helps make you more discoverable. And you never know who’s going to see it.

All it takes is one person to turn you into a success. Literally – but slowly. If you’ve written something that is truly great and one person reads it and loves it so much, they’ll tell other people about it. Some of them will tell others. And so on. Think of your book going viral as being akin to a forest fire. Every person that reads your book is a match that could start that fire.  So bring up your book or the fact that you’re an author whenever and wherever you can that is appropriate. Be proud of yourself for having written *and* published a book.  Lots of people say they’re going to “some day” but you actually did it.

And when you tell someone you have a book out and they ask with that look, “Self-published?” Smile and say, “Hell, yeah! Just like Mark Twain!”

Read The Storytellers and embrace your identity as an author. You have a special place in the world.

Now you just have to do the non-writing work of getting your book out there in the public eye. I’ve given you some suggestions. Come back and give me some when you learn more than you know today. You’ll find that most indie authors are very supportive. We’re all in the same underdog boat, if you don’t mind a mixed metaphor.

Don’t spend all of your time promoting though. The most important thing is to be working on your next book. You’re a much better writer now than you were before you wrote the first one. So it’s just bound to be a better book.

If you have multiple ideas for your next book, take a look at what’s really popular right now. You might need to rearrange the order in which you had planned to write your next books. If you’re thinking of a historical whodunit first, then a post-apocalypse novel later, reverse that order. I would never say to just write what the market wants with no regard for what is inside you bursting to get out, but if you want to sell books, then you do have to look at the business of book selling and not be blind to reality.

The thing that worked best for me was writing a post-apocalypse story apparently. That book sells itself. I wrote a novella about a demon-like spirit who ruins people’s lives to try to turn them to the dark side, and that book will not sell. People who read it, say it’s great. But people who just see it, pass right on by. I don’t know how to sell it. It might be that it’s in a genre that isn’t doing well currently. I wrote a sci-fi short story, just to get the idea down on paper. I didn’t plan on publishing it. It was almost like a narrative outline for a novel I wanted to write later. That ended up being my bestseller until I wrote my post-apocalypse. And even that was just a short story I had sitting around. But then I wrote a sequel, then another. And then I put the three parts into one novel, and it sells almost every day. It’s nothing more than a combination of a unique entry into a popular genre. I’ve never promoted it. So definitely consider the genre you’ve written in, and the one you’ll write in next. It can play a huge part in your book’s success.

Q. Is Goodreads the number one place I need to promote my book?

A. The least effective thing I ever did was buy advertising on Goodreads. You know, the place with millions of readers that everyone says you just have to be a part of, as if it was the Shangri-La for authors? I spent a hundred dollars on an ad that was to be displayed on genre-appropriate pages. According to the stats, I had thousands of “views.” That doesn’t mean actual views, but it was there to be seen if anyone looked at it.  Out of thousands of views, I think I had one actual click from a user. I asked for and received a refund from Goodreads.

Goodreads is an interesting website. There are alleged to be between 7 and 15 million members. That sounds like an author’s utopia. All of those readers concentrated in one place. It’s nothing of the sort. Yes, there are readers there, but they are there to keep track of the books they read, to share their reviews and read others, and primarily to hang out with reader friends.

 

Imagine what it must’ve been like there once upon a time when an AUTHOR blessed them with his or her presence. It would have been a big deal. A celebrity they could rub virtual skin with. But then Amazon went and made it possible for any schmuck to publish anything and call it a book. And even worse, to call himself an author.  You have to admit, there’s a lot of crap that is self-published. Now imagine these newly dubbed “authors” rushing in droves to Goodreads and spamming the holy crap out of every group they could get into. Every conversation could be interrupted at any time by a stranger busting in and shouting, “I just published a book. Go check it out! And like my Facebook page too!!”

Readers have their favorite authors and they have lists of books that they intend to read. They also have recommendations that come to them from friends, which is about the best promotion a book can get. No one needs or wants an author shouting at them their big announcement they, who no one has ever heard of, has published a book. Don’t be one of those authors on Goodreads.

There are very specific places where book promotion is welcome. Outside of those places, do not promote your book. In some places you shouldn’t even mention that you’re an author. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a mysteriously antagonistic attitude after mentioning that you’re an author. Wear your reader hat when you’re in a reader’s forum.  Be a living advertisement for your book. Let people who are interested in you find out that you’re an author. They’ve been through self-promotion hell there and some people view every new author to arrive as another likely annoyance and disruption to what was once their haven.

I hope these tips from my year of experience as a self-published author are helpful to some extent. Try not to get bogged down in any one thing. Don’t let your first negative review depress you. Consider what you can learn from it – but also, don’t go changing your book to please one person who criticized one thing. Remember that being an author is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul. You’re also leaving something behind for your children and grandchildren, and so on – forever. How cool is that?

About

Edward M Wolfe was an field reporter for one of the first independent news websites in the late 90′s, and later worked as a city beat reporter on the Oregon coast.

His latest novel, Kendra’s Spirit, is a story about what happens when true love is interrupted by terrorism, and other religious beliefs.

He lives in Tulsa with two human children, and two canine children who all love his writing, and tolerate his guitar playing.

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ewolfe @ edwardmwolfe.com (remove spaces after copying and pasting)

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