Tag Archives: indie publishing

Interview and an Excerpt – Jonathan Gould

Interview and an Excerpt is a feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Jonathan Gould.
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1.) How long have you been an indie author?
I’m not sure at what point I became an indie author. I’ve been writing for over 15 years now. I started off writing comedy sketches for university revues and independent radio – I guess I was trying to emulate one of my heroes, Douglas Adams. I began working on novels about a year later – my first couple are at the bottom of the drawer and I suspect they’ll stay there. I actually have 2 children’s books published in Australia by real publishers – I was hoping that would be my entry into the wonderful world of publishing but it wasn’t to be. I began to seriously think about going alone (indie?) a couple of years ago, culminating in my first self-published ebook early last year.

2.) How many books have you self published?

At this stage, a grand total of three:

  1. Doodling – the story of a man who fell off the world (because it’s moving too fast). It’s a humorous fantasy – Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll
  2. Flidderbugs – this one’s a bit of an odd mixture – one part political satire, one part fable, and one part funny little story about a strange bunch of insects.
  3. Magnus Opum – my newest release. An epic fantasy with a twist. Tolkien meets Dr Seuss

3.) Are you a panther or a plotter?

Normally I’m a total plotter. I’m pretty anal about getting everything mapped out, writing lists and chapter outlines and character descriptions, etc… However, every so often, I’ll go the other way and begin writing with no end in mind and no idea where it would take me. My first book, Doodlingwas written in this way, hence the title – I referred to the process as “literary doodling”. It was a lot of fun and actually rejuvenated my interest in writing at the time. I’m currently writing a sequel to Doodling for which I’m following a similar approach.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I’m not sure you could even call it a process. I work full time and have a family so it’s really about stealing whatever time I have – evenings, weekends. To be honest, I tend to go through peaks and troughs. I’ll get really motivated and do a heap of writing for several months. Then I can get into a trough that can sometimes go for over a year. I’ve just reached the high point of one of my peaks, so will definitely have to focus on keeping up there.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Again I get to mention my hero, Douglas Adams. He said that writers should not be in business of reinforcing stereotypes – it’s in a book called Last Chance to See– he met some German backpackers and was really distressed at the fact that they so conformed to the stereotype of German backpackers. So he decided they weren’t German, they were Latvian, and described them as such for the rest of the book. A wonderful read so please check it out.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Don’t do it??? Seriously (and funny you should ask because I have been talking to a teenager with writerly ambitions), I would advise them to be realistic and aware of how difficult it is to break through. I would suggest that they really focus on getting their writing to the best standard that it can be – do courses, road test and get feedback. Try to make sure that what they have to say is something interesting and new. And to make a start on building up social networks before they publish – wish I’d had someone to tell me that.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

Hah – that’s pretty funny. I recently got paid for the first time for my self-published books. I’m not going to say how much it was because I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Mind you, my day job also involves writing, so I could say that I earn a living through writing. But it’s not exactly the sort of writing I really want to do.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Mainly just time, and a bit of space in my brain to work through my ideas.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

Nothing too fancy – just good old MS Word. And html when it comes to producing my ebooks (with a bit of help from Mobipocket and Calibre).

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

Gee, I’m really the wrong person to ask about that. When I think about my promoting efforts, the words I that come to mind are “scattergun”, “erratic”, and “totally uninformed”.
After a year of this, I really don’t have much of a clue. I guess the main challenge I face is because my books don’t easily fit into genres, it’s really hard to know where and how to best place them. What I find is when people discover them (mainly when I’ve plonked them in their faces) they say things like “This isn’t what I’d normally choose to read but I really enjoyed it.”
So to summarize, I’ve basically tried it all – giveaways, guest posts, interviews (obviously), twittering, my own blog, a blog tour, Goodreads, large organized events, cross-promoting with others. The main thing I haven’t tried so far is KDP select – I have very mixed feelings about it, but figure at this stage I might as well give it a go.
What is effective? The best thing for me was pure luck – getting a free feature on Pixel of Ink. I guess that’s the thing – you need to get out onto the sites people use to find new books, and the good ones cost a pretty penny. I’m considering my budget to decide what I think is worthwhile.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

Again hard to answer because of the irregularity of my writing process. When motivated, I can get a novel length work drafted in 6 months –but I’ve also been stuck on things for years.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I use a bunch of different readers to road test, trying to look at people who might represent different types of audiences. I also have a couple of editors I’ve met through various jobs who are happy to charge mates rates (or sometimes just a box of chocolates) which is really helpful – a good editor is an absolute essential. The main financial expense has been the cover designer who was also someone I found through work. But he’s definitely been worth it – the covers he does are fantastic.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

As mentioned above, I’ve invented a new genre to describe my writing – Dag-Lit. Dag is Australian slang for a person who doesn’t quite fit in, but usually in a fun way – someone unselfconsciously uncool. That’s kind of how I see my stories – they’re hard to pin down into a single genre. They’re kind of funny and kind of strange and a bit different. Maybe “comic fantasy” if we’re getting reductionist. Or sometimes I just describe them as modern fairy tales for the young-at-heart. The first time you see them, you may think they look like children’s books, but once you start reading, you’ll hopefully find that there’s something there for all ages.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

At the moment, the main WIP is the sequel to Doodling– the tentative title Scribbling. I’ve only just completed a first draft so it still needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to have ready for release by the end of the year.
There’s also a longer novel I’ve been working at for a few years now – a young adult fantasy/comedy/adventure set in a universe where the laws of physics bear more resemblance to the laws of human behavior, i.e. completely unpredictable and immeasurable in every way.
Beyond that – I’m never short of ideas.

To connect with Jonathan, you can find him here:

Blog, Dag-Lit Central – http://daglit.blogspot.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/jonno_go
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/jonathangouldwriter
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Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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Flidderbugs is a political satire, a fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of bugs with some very peculiar obsessions.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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Magnus Opum is a story about a little person in a very big world – an epic fantasy with a twist – Tolkien meets Dr Seuss.

Available exclusively from Amazon.

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Welcome new readers!

I see that I’ve recently gotten a lot of traffic from people who have recently discovered I Wish and the Witches of Desire world. That’s awesome! Hi, guys!

Looking at the search terms that brought some of you here I can see that there are a couple of questions that people are wondering about so I thought I’d make a post to address those things.

What ages is I Wish appropriate for? – I Wish is a book with some dark themes of betrayal, obsession, and murder. It’s filtered through the 1st person POV of Thistle Nettlebottom who tries to keep a sense of humor about things. There is one scene in the book that features a little bit of heavy petting and a reference to her “down there”.

Depending on your comfort level with those topics, the book is probably suitable for readers 13 years and up. But again, it’s ultimately a personal choice about what your let your kids read.

I will say now that I’m struggling with the sequel. As it’s outlined now there will be some sex scenes. They will be “closed door”, meaning that it will be mentioned in passing, rather than a blow by blow description, but those scenes will be referenced in terms that make it clear that sex is happening because it’s important to the plot. The references will not be written to titillate, but it might change your view on whether the book is acceptable for your young readers.

At this time I am planning to have a censored version available, but I’m unsure as to whether I’m going to post it for sale because I’m afraid it might cause confusion. It’s still early to plan for it since my outline isn’t finalized yet so those scenes might be cut anyway. But I will address the details closer to the release date.

When will Your Word is My Bond (book 2 of the Witches of Desire trilogy) be released? – I’m an indie published author. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side, I don’t have to wait on an arbitrary publishing schedule, I can release my stories as soon as they are written. The bad news is that I don’t have a set in stone deadline I have to meet. Which is why I ended up taking time off from writing mainstream fiction to focus on other projects and so the sequel to I Wish hasn’t been written yet.

Now having confessed that, I am committed to getting the sequel out as soon as possible while still delivering a great story. Fortunately, I already know what happens. Nothing that happens in book 2 or 3 of this series is a surprise to me. I plotted the series arcs before I wrote word of I Wish. At this point I’m just working out the details. I hope to start writing by this weekend. My anticipated release date is mid April at the latest. Because the main focus of this blog is my writing process, you can check back here from time to time to find out how the book is progressing and for “behind the scenes” peeks at my creative process.

What other stories take place in the Witches of Desire universe? – I’m just going to steal this list I posted on my Facebook page:

I Wish – A full length YA novel which follows the story of Thistle Nettlebottom, a teen who returns to a hometown she doesn’t remember only to discover that she’s a witch from a town full of them. She has to learn to navigate the complex matriarchal society dominated by women who inexplicably hate her while learning to use her newly discovered powers.
 
As if high school isn’t hard enough, throw in a tough choice between two hot guys, a best friend who refuses to talk to you in public, but won’t explain why, and dodging attacks from someone who wants you dead. She always wanted a place to call home, but now that she’s got it, she’s learned that it’s best to be careful what you wish for.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
 
The Second Daughter’s Second Daughter – A stand alone short story that is both a prequel and sequel to I Wish (as in it covers things that happen before the events of I Wish, but really makes more sense if you read it afterwards). It’s best if it’s read after I Wish, but shouldn’t spoil things if you read it first. It’s in the anthology The Glass Heart Chronicles. It’s the story of a young girl’s first love and the tragic aftermath.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
B&N
Smashwords
 
The Hazards of Desire – A stand alone short story that delves into some of the reasons that falling in love in Desire isn’t a very good for your health. It’s included in the anthology Every Witch Way but Wicked. The proceeds of that anthology go to Kids Need to Read.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
B&N
Smashwords
 
The Lies We Tell Ourselves – This micro short story can be read alone, but adds some character development to one of my favorite characters from I Wish, Zane Littlebury. He’s hiding a secret from everyone in Desire, including himself.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
B&N
Smashwords
 
Your Word is My Bond – The sequel to I Wish. It’s should be available for purchase around April 2012.

I read I Wish and loved it. I’m a huge fan now. Is there anything I can do to help spread the love? – YES! A hundred times yes. Word of mouth is the single biggest factor in a reader’s choice to read a new book. You might be thinking that you are only one person, what can you do? Believe it or not, you have the power to make a career. If you love a book, not just mine, any book at all- tell people about it. Tell your friends, blog about it, tweet about it. I’m going to copy myself again (I’m a dirty plagiarizer today. Sorry!) and use this list that I published in May around the same time that I published I Wish:

So you read my book, I Wish… and you loved it. How can you help my fledgling indie writing career and show your support of my book? Let me give you a list of ways.

  • Word of mouth- The best thing you can do for any product you love is tell your friends. Tell them in forums, on your blog, Twitter, in person. Any way you can communicate your love for something works great.
  • Write a review- Reviews are like currency for indie writers. It let’s other potential readers know that people are reading and enjoying the book and makes it easier for them to decide to buy the book. You can post a review on your blog, the book seller’s site (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc…), reading sites like GoodReads. Or cross post your review on all of them. It’s an awesome gesture and so so SO helpful.
  • Rate, tag, and like my book on Amazon- Amazon has a bizarre way of ranking books that nobody seems to really understand, but doing things like tagging or rating a book only takes a second of your time, but helps get the book into the hands of the people who will most enjoy that type of book.
  • Give me feedback- If the book doesn’t work for you and you don’t want to hurt my sales with negative feedback, but you don’t feel like you can give honest positive feedback, please know that I’m open to hearing whatever it is that you want to say about it. I want to know what’s working or not. I am not the temperamental artist type so don’t fear my crazy wrath. And if you have nothing but good things to say, feel free to let me know that too. I’ll never turn down a little feel good.
  • Offer to host me on your blog- If you really love the book and you feel like I might be a good fit for your blog readership, ask me to do a guest post or an interview. I won’t say no and we both get something from the partnership- I get access to your readers and it’s a day that you don’t have to come up with a post of your own. Wins all around! Yay!
  • Put an excerpt of my book in the back of yours- Have a new book coming out and think that the first scene or two of I Wish would appeal to your readers? Shoot me a note and we’ll work something out.
  • Recommend the book- This goes along with the whole word of mouth thing from way up the list, but it bears repeating. If you see an opportunity to recommend I Wish… to someone who will enjoy it, it would help get the word out. Book bloggers, reading groups, friends and family members. A sincere recommendation can sell a book to almost anyone.
  • Read books by other indie authors- If you like my book then buy books by other indie authors. We’re all in the same boat as we struggle to promote our books. Buying a book from an indie not only helps them pay the bills, but it gives them a sense of validation to know that someone wants to read what they’ve taken the time to write. Buying indie helps to support our little community and without my indie writing friends, I might not have even heard about indie publishing.
  • Buy the book- If you truly loved the book and want to show support, buying the book would help out a lot. Of course there is the money that I’ll see from your purchase which is awesome and appreciated, but buying the book has the additional benefit of raising my rankings on site where you buy it, which will increase my visibility to other buyers.
  • Gift the book to your friends and family- Gifting the book not only counts as a sale (which benefits me as stated above), but it also introduces my book to a new potential fan who can then do all the things in this list.

How can I keep on top of updates to the series? – The easiest way would be to subscribe to this blog. Yeah, a lot of it is about writing, but sometimes I write embarrassing posts about myself. And zombies. Klout has told me that I’m kind of an authority on the subject of zombies. But only because it’s true.

I am also putting together a mailing list for updates on new books and stories that come out in the upcoming months. If you’re interested in being added, just send me an email at wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject line “mailing list”, no text necessary and I’ll make sure that you’re added. I won’t spam or sell your email so no worries there. I hate marketing, folks. So I’m especially uninclined to do something like that. 😉

How can I contact you? – I am ridiculously accessible. I have accounts at Pininterest, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Instagram and probably 10 other sites I can’t think of off the top of my head. I use the name wrenemerson or Wren Emerson everywhere I join. If you have an account some place and you want to be friends with me, search for one of those names and you’ll find me. I love meeting new people so don’t be shy. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@wrenem) or email me at wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com. And, of course, you can always comment on this blog.

Where can I buy vomit stickers for scrapbooking? – Ok, this was just for one person. I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s cool that I was even on the list of relevant sites? I believe I was something like 3rd or 4th. But even cooler is the fact that I’m the number one search if you’re looking for “zombie herpes badger”. Maybe it’s a silly thing to be proud of, but then again I’m the girl who was pleased as punch to find out someone was googling “Wren Emerson bikini” even if I do think that’s a terribly misguided search. Trust me folks, you don’t want to see that. I’m pretty much an escapee of a National Geographic magazine from the neck down. I blame the minions.

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Filed under indie publishing

KDP Select; 2 genres, 2 outcomes Part 1

First of all, let me just tell you all a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to those of you who downloaded a copy and those who helped to spread the word. I had more success at this experiment than I had any right to hope for. It was truly one of the most magical experiences of my writing career so far (second only to finishing writing my first novel, selling my first copy, and getting those first few reviews/fan letters asking me about the sequel).

As of the time I’m writing this I Wish, these are my stats:

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These are by far the best numbers I’ve ever had on I Wish. Prior to this I think the lowest I’ve ever gotten was in the #7k range. So let me give you a quick break down on how this went down.

I joined Select around the end of January. I wasn’t sure what to do about my free days and based purely on the fact that I liked the sound of “Friday Freebie”, I decided to set my first free day for the first Friday in February so that I could see the difference in income from January to February. Obviously I wasn’t expecting huge successes. Actually, let me tell you exactly what I was hoping to get out of the program.

Before I put I Wish into the program, it was bouncing around between lows of the #200k and highs of around #50k. Last month I sold 23 copies of the book in the US store. That’s not even 1 copy a day. I have a screen shot from a little while ago I can add for perspective.

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I tried to figure out why people weren’t buying my book. The reviews I’ve gotten have all been very enthusiastic. So I concluded that the story wasn’t the problem. It was getting people to READ the story that was giving me issues. I knew it was the cover holding me back. I made it myself based on a few books that had a wonderful use of white space. They were clean and appealing to me. Oh yeah, and they also looked like an entirely different genre than I was trying to sell. Oops.

I looked at some websites to see what kinds of covers were hot for YA paranormal and came across the “pretty girls in beautiful dresses” trend. Love! I found a photo of my own pretty girl in a beautiful dress at 123rf and my love went to work. A new, more appropriate for the genre cover deserved a chance for some exposure, I thought, and that’s when I started to consider the Select program.

Deciding to pull my book from other stores wasn’t a hard choice. I’d only ever put it in B&N in the first place because when I was getting started we hadn’t ever tried to format per Smashwords’ requirements and it was extremely intimidating. Last month I sold 8 copies of I Wish through B&N. I figured surely my experiment would yield enough exposure to sell an extra 8 copies. The way I thought of it, it was like paying $30 for advertising. Maybe it’d pay off, maybe it wouldn’t. It was a gamble, but I didn’t feel like I had much to lose.

My hopes for this experiment were small. I hoped to increase my sales which shouldn’t be hard since I wasn’t even moving a copy a day. Really my hopes were set on building a loyal fan base who will happily buy the other two books in the Witches of Desire trilogy. That’s it. I’ve heard of great things happening for people who do the program, but that wasn’t what I was expecting by any stretch.

As I said earlier, I put my book free on Friday. When I woke up I’d had a couple of hundred downloads. I was thrilled. I had a second book come off free the day before and it didn’t have these results. I’ll post more on that tomorrow. But suffice it to say that my expectations were extremely low.

Sometime around late morning my sales took a sudden noticeable uptick and I was having books download 30-50 a minute. Every time I hit the refresh button there were more downloads. That’s when I realized that this might be a bigger deal than I hoped. I decided to make some efforts to promote my giveaway.

I posted on Twitter several times, blogged about my free book, made sure to update FB. But my downloads were bigger than all of that could account for. I mean, I’m awesome and all, but c’mon. It turns out that Pixel of Ink found me somehow. I mean, if I’d been more organized or had bigger dreams I might have thought to contact them in advance of my promo, but it never even occurred to me. I can almost surely attribute my amazing showing on the free charts to them.

I was glued to my computer all day. I watched my rank drop to the #2k range and was thrilled. Then it dropped to the top 1000 and I was even more thrilled. Then I made the top 100 best seller list and I thought I might throw up. I was literally so happy that my body thought the appropriate response was to vomit.

Around 7 or 8pm EST I was sitting at #11 and I decided that since it was going so well, I’d go ahead and extend my promotion another day. I was doing well and I figured I’d see if I could get any higher on the list. By midnight I had 8k downloads and was sitting at #9. I broke the top ten.

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When I woke up on Saturday I was in the #5 spot and that’s where I spent almost the entire day. I never moved up any higher than that. I started to drop in rank around 6 or so in the evening so I decided to pull my book early so that I could leave on a strong note, hoping that would help my paid rank.

I pulled my book at 8:30 and my rank immediately went to #158k on the paid charts. About 100k places lower than it was before I started. I was a little bit agitated. At this point I’d had 15,853 downloads and spent 24 hours in the top 10 free books, most of that time at #5 and this was what it translated into? I also couldn’t see myself on anybody’s Also Bought list. I tried not to freak out too much, but it was frustrating for sure.

About an hour later my rank fixed itself and I think I was in the #4000s? I can’t remember and I didn’t seem to take a screen cap of it to reference. At any rate, it was a lot more reasonable to me than 150k.

I made 30 sales on Saturday night after coming off free. I also started getting borrows for the first time. I think there were 18 of those. I went to bed excited to see what Sunday would bring.

The answer, I found out, was an extremely slow, frustrating day. My sales from the night before positioned me at in the #1400s, but my sales had slowed down. It was still more than I’d sold before, but nowhere near the velocity of the night before where I’d sold 30 copies in around 4 hours. It was something like 20 copies between midnight on Saturday and 10pm on Sunday. I was really bummed, but still, I’d succeeded in my goal of getting my book into more hands.

I’d started watching a few other books that’d been on the top ten list with me to see how their rank was after going to paid. 2 of the books were priced at $.99 so I figured they were bound to make a lot of sales since it was such a low risk to take on a new author, but the 3rd was priced around $4.50, I think it was. I don’t know because the price dropped to $.99 in the first hour or two. And, predictably, the rank dropped significantly too.

I toyed with the idea of dropping my price at that point too. I hated to lose the momentum I’d built up and all day long my rank was slowly slipping from the #1400s to a heartbeat from #3k. Seriously, I think I was at #2950 by the end.

Basically it came down to the question of whether I was willing to drop my price down to $.99, something I told myself I’d never do again, or lose my rank and fade back to obscurity. I decided that since I’d accomplished the goal of reaching a wider audience, I’d just trust that they’d come back for Your Word is My Bond and I’d take whatever sales came to I Wish on my terms and if that meant that I’ll never see the top #100, I’d live with that.

But then around 10:30pm, like magic, my books started moving. I was up until 2 am last night and I sold 65 copies during that period. It was about 4 copies every 15 minutes. My mind was blown. Did I mention that I sold these copies while maintaining my price of $4.99? As of right now I’ve broken the 16k mark. I’ve sold 162 copies and had 51 lends. Of course, I’ve also had 52 returns. I started getting them while my book was still free. I have no idea why anyone would return a free book, but I’m here to tell you that it happens.

It also had a bit of spillover on my 3 short stories. I’ve sold a combined total of 21 copies of those since Friday. That was unexpected, but nice. I’ve basically sold enough short stories to buy some tacos. That’s a good day.

It’s far too early to draw any conclusions. My sales seem really slow again right now compared to last night. So it could mean that I’ve peaked. Or maybe they are transitioning to work right now. Or maybe the people who love my book the most are night owls. There’s no telling. But if this is it, if I’m done selling, I’ve still accomplished my mission of increasing my exposure and starting a loyal fan base for the rest of my series and made more in 2 days than I have in the entire career of this book. I’m pretty happy about that.

I’ll post part 2 of the great KDP experiment tomorrow, in which we’ll look at another title I put up which is not having anywhere near the same level of success as I Wish has had. In the meant time, I gathered up a bunch of articles about different authors and their perspectives on KDP Select.

Does Amazon’s new KDP Select program work?

How KDP Select saved my book

From Mania to Reality: The results of my Amazon Select experiment

Very early results from KDP Select

KDP Select free promotion results

Results of KDP Select Promotion Yseult 20 in historical fantasy

So [innocent whistling], about that KDP Select…

KDP Select promotion wrap up

KDP Select free promotion discoverability experiment part 1, part 2, part 3

Unintended Consequences

The joys of KDP Select: Patrice Fitzgerald’s story

KDP Select, Amazon rank and the secrett of why Select members have an advantage

David Wisehart’s 9 day experiment

Is KDP Select salvation or damnation for indie authors

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Filed under I wish, promotion

New Stories and KDP Select

I’m writing this entry with MacJournal so it might take a few tries before I get it uploaded and formatted correctly. Sorry for that!

I now have 3 short stories available on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. All three of them are free reads you can either find on this blog or others, but I thought it might be worth it to package them up and put them on sale for people who might not read this blog or who want them on their ereaders.

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Perchance to Dream

It’s just a doll. Nothing special unless you know what to look for. People who know are willing to do more than just kill to have her.

They’ll die.

Amazon, B&N, Smashwords

Interesting to note about that one is that it’s featured on a Succubus wiki. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Cool.

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Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle

The movies get vampires all wrong, but there’s one predator willing to explain how it works to a very interested woman.

Amazon, B&N, Smashwords

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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Zane Littlebury has a secret. Nothing new in a town like Desire, but his is different. It’s something he can’t even admit to himself.

Kindle, B&N, Smashwords

You can find this one under my Free Reads page. It’s a piece of flash fiction that is just under 1000 words. It’s a bit of character development on one of my favorite characters from I Wish. It’a a bit more adult in theme.

The other major change that I’ve made recently is to add I Wish to the KDP Select program. I’m still not sure how I feel about the program. I think it’s a bad idea to give Amazon all the power over where a large percentage of indies sell their books, but at the same time I decided I should give it a fair shot before I pan it. Maybe it will revitalize my sales as it has for some people who’ve used it.

It’s only 3 months and my sales at B&N were low enough that it can’t really hurt to pull it. I’ll keep you posted of any radical changes that come from using the program. But I will say that in the 4 or 5 days I’ve had it enrolled I haven’t lent a single copy. I have a free day coming up on February 3rd so I’ll be watching to see if that prods things along. I made sure to have it happen in a new month so I could directly compare the difference between February’s sales from January’s.

I do see that they dropped the money pool for KDP Select from $700k to $600k in February. That’s not a reassuring sign. There was probably a huge Christmas rush with everyone buying ereaders and rushing to get as much content as they could. Now that’s slowing down. We’ll see how it goes for me. I’ve got a new cover that I like significantly more than the old one. I think it’s a little more in line with other YA paranormal books on the market right now so hopefully it finds it’s way into the right audiences.

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I Wish gets a new cover

The blog post contains major spoilers. I did finally commission a new cover for I Wish… after months of talking about it. I originally talked to someone a couple of months after I released I Wish… but that fell through. Being that I’m exceptionally lazy, I never pursued it again. What I did do was whine about it. Incessantly.

Finally it happened the other day that I was complaining that with my new price (I raised the price to $4.99 around the first) I really need to get serious about getting a cover that better conveys that my book isn’t a fluff coming of age story, but an edgier, darker YA paranormal.

My love, who is much more patient than I am and has been hiding some amazing photoshop skills like a ninja, offered to take a crack at it. We looked at a bunch of the covers of books in the genre that have been released this year and then he found a blog entry that compared a trend of girls in pretty dresses on covers this year. I know it was more to point out that it was done to death, but instead I said, “Squee! I want a girl in a pretty dress on my cover now too!” Because I’m a sheep.

Unrelated to the proceeding paragraph I thought I’d mention that while I was looking for that link, which I couldn’t suss out via Google and finally had to go through hundreds of entries in my browser history (you’re welcome!), I found a very interesting blog about the literal darkness of YA covers in 2010. You should check it out. It’s really cool, actually.

So anyway, that’s the backstory about how I came up with this particular vision for the cover that has almost nothing to do with my actual story (there are woods in my story and the cover model has long dark hair, at least). But my love gets all the credit for making what I think is a lovely cover. I picked the image and when he wanted to add ornamentation, I asked him to stick with the dandelion-puff-represents-wishing thing I had going in the original version. Other than that, it’s all him. It should go up sometime in the next few days.

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The most interesting job in the world

I’ve spent a lot of time this week working on the outline for my upcoming project, known at this time as F My Afterlife- although that name was chosen when I was going for a more playful tone. Things have gotten downright macabre in ghost-land during the course of plotting so I’m not sure if that title will fit anymore.

When I say “some time” I mean every day for a week and a half from 8am when I wake up to 9 or 10 o clock at night. I bought some books* on the craft that I’ve been reading while I plot, literally reading for a few minutes and then stopping to add or rewrite scenes accordingly. I’ve been learning a lot this time around. I have been making liberal use of post it notes on my wall to remind me of things like prior to the midpoint the characters are reacting, it’s only after that point that they finally start to take action. Just simple reminders, but they help me keep things on track.

I can’t imagine spending as much time doing any other job. I never thought that I’d find something to do with myself that would literally have me wanting to spend my every waking moment thinking about it. Granted, it becomes more of a grind once the planning stage is over, but there’s no part of writing that I actually hate or even dislike. Well, maybe promotion, but I’m out to find out if that step is even necessary.

What really made me consider my opinion that writing is clearly the most interesting way to earn a living ever is the nature of some of the conversations I’ve had because of it. I IM with my love most of the day, especially when something in my plotting has really caught my imagination. At that point it’s an invitation to send him an elaborate run down of the plot so far, how the characters tie together, and why this new idea is solid gold. I’m guessing that for him none of this is nearly as fascinating as I think it is, but the fact that I’m literally creating something that didn’t exist until I thought of it is heady stuff.

If you are someone who is sitting on the fence about indie publishing, I’d highly recommend you give it a try. Based on my highly scientific presentation of why writing rocks.

Unrelated, but worth reading, I found another article about the KDP Select program. I know Mark Coker isn’t unbiased, but he makes such good points. The one thing I hope will come from this is that for the 90 days that the authors who opted in are tied to Amazon exclusively, those of us who didn’t will see more sales on our books in other places.

*book list courtesy of Ecto’s awesome Amazon feature:

“Story Engineering” (Larry Brooks)

“Story Structure Architect: A Writer’s Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters” (Victoria Lynn Schmidt)

“How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense” (Carolyn Wheat) (I literally bought this one out of desperation the other day when I realized my story was taking on some mystery tones)

“Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time” (Jordan Rosenfeld)

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Creating a production schedule

I’m not sure if there are other terms that apply to what I refer to as my production schedule. But my definition is my plan for upcoming writing projects mapped out through 2012.

My schedule hinges on my ability to write 2k words toward my novels per day, every day. I’m not giving myself any planned days off because I don’t really feel like I need them. Writing is not a chore for me. It’s something I enjoy doing and I can knock out 2000 words without too much effort. If I do miss a day due to life getting in the way, I’ll just add those missed days onto another day. It’s the end result that counts. I did this with I Wish… with great results.

I used the Curio software to set up my schedule. It allows me to assign due dates to lists. So this is what my schedule looks like for 2012.

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This plan hinges on me being able to do several things at once. I’ll always have something in either a 2 week pre-writing stage or actually being written. Then there will be edits happening as well. At which point I’ll find a pro to give my drafts a final polish. I haven’t factored in hiring a cover artist, this only covers the things I’ll be doing myself. I’ll probably work with someone while I’m writing the story since I’ll know from my outlining what will happen in the story. Depending on the turn around time with the editor, I should have these books up within a few weeks after I finish my round of edits.

As you can see, you can expect the Witches of Desire trilogy to be done by next January. I figure that should give me some breathing room in between projects to keep up my enthusiasm for the project. This is a tentative schedule. I plan to keep flexible on what projects I tackle. If I’m not feeling it when it comes time to work on something, I’ll either swap it with something due later in the year or take on a new project altogether. This schedule isn’t meant to stifle me, just hold me account able to a certain level of productivity.

The novels aren’t the only thing I’ll be working on. I have my short fiction under my pen name that I’ll be writing simultaneously. Also at a pace of 2k words a day. Each story averages about 4.5k words. My plan is to write 3 stories a week that I’ll upload on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Saturdays I’ll spend some time coming up with story ideas for the week and creating the covers so when it’s time to upload them, all I have to do is format and go.

This is a pretty ambitious year. I do expect that I’ll come up short on the stories because there’s not much room for error and my life is full of socializing with the other girls on the derby team, as well as more serious commitments to the team. On top of that, I have a family which includes my young minions. Summer vacation will play havoc with my carefully structured schedule, I have no doubt. The novels I feel a little bit better about. Since I work from strict outlines, there’s not a lot of on the spot creative thinking necessary. I can do that with kids arguing in the background. I’ve done it before.

So you want to know how I came up with this schedule so you can make your own?

Come up with a daily/weekly word goal

What’s reasonable for you? I went with 4k on a daily basis because I feel like it’s not much of a strain. I don’t work outside the home. Writing IS my job so it’s not unreasonable to expect myself to put in a full day’s work doing it. It’s enough to challenge me, which I think is a good thing to strive for, but I don’t run much of a risk of burn out since I’ll be working across several projects at a time. Figure out what a good number is for you. Challenge yourself, but don’t make it impossible to achieve.

Determine the length of your projects

My shorts are ~4.5k words each and my novels are being planned at 90k each. 90k/2k = 45 days. Or about 6 weeks. 2 weeks of outlining seems reasonable to me since I’ll be working on that unofficially during the time leading up to them. I LOVE that part of writing, so I’ll think about it for fun. By the time I’m ready to start a project I’ll already have a really good idea of what I’m looking at.

Mark it on your calendar

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This is what my February is going to look like. It seems pretty chaotic in the overview, but by taking it day by day, I don’t think it’ll seem so overwhelming. Other things to add would be any anthologies to which you contribute, contest dates, submissions to traditional agents/publishers (if that’s your thing), and other writing projects. Write it down and then live by your calendar.

Hold yourself accountable

When I wrote I Wish… I kept a daily word tracking log. It told me exactly how many words I’d written that day, how many words I’d written total, and how many I had left to meet my goal. It was motivating to watch my word count slowly grow. I’m still debating about how I plan to keep track this time around. I’ll probably just start a couple of lists with Curio and add the date and the number of words I wrote that day for each project. I won’t stress about daily totals as long as I’m good about finishing my weekly goals (4k a day or 28k a week).

Don’t go easy on yourself. When you are an indie writer you don’t answer to anybody but yourself. Oh sure, your fans are going to want to know when they can expect the next book, but believe me, no matter how much you want to give it to them, if you aren’t motivated internally, it’s not going to happen. You won’t be fired if you don’t finish your manuscript by a certain date. These are your goals so you need to be the one making sure you meet them.

Stick with it

This is going to be the hard part. It’s easy to make goals, but something else all together to stick with it until you get the results you want. If you fail to meet your goal one day, or a week, or even a month, don’t just throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause. Either reevaluate your goals since maybe you were being too ambitious or, if you’re sure your goals are reasonable and it was a just a weak moment on your part, pick it up again and carry on. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. Self loathing isn’t going to get your books written. Put it behind you and try again.

Are you planning to set up a production schedule for 2012? Let me know and we can try to help each other stay motivated to stick it out.

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