Live From Kindle…

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For those three or four readers who’ve been anxiously awaiting my mystery series, I’m happy to tell you the books are officially published and up on Amazon. (click on pictures to view Amazon page.) I hope some of you will give them a try and that they provide a happy reading experience for you.

Next up

I’m revising and editing my first novel, False Witness and will be publishing it under my own moniker. I believe it will be a much better read and I’ve got a better cover too.

After that, I’m digging into a new series – which I hope to have ready for release within the next year.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this blog. It means the world to me that people want to read the words I write.

God Bless,

Annie

Who Won the Hugos, Why it Matters & Other Good Stuff

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Who won science fiction’s Hugo Awards and why it matters. By Amy Wallace. A very long and detailed article about the controversy leading up to the Hugos and the results. For me, it provided some clarity on what all the ‘debating’ has been about over these last several months. Good read, but it’s a long read, so get comfy.

Simple Promo Tip: Nailing Your Email Subject Line by Sharon Bially. Nice, straightforward advice on email marketing for authors.

The Holy Grail for Authors. 5 Reasons to Self Publish by Sheri McInnis. Trad published author is going indie – she tells us why.

Six Magic Phrases You Can Use to Sell More Books by Sandra Beckwith. Yes, yes, and yes.

Best Colors for Book Covers. Is a great little gem that discusses basic design, color choices and images for book covers. Highly recommend. :D

Meanwhile, I’m on track to make my August 30th deadline. Stay tuned.

Annie

Chuck wants a character

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Chuck Wendig has a flash fiction challenge – not to write flash fiction (because that would be too easy) but to create a character, that possibly some of his other readers might want to ‘borrow’ for a future flash fiction contest. (Got all that? Me neither). Anyway, following is my attempt at this challenge:

I don’t know his name but he has the kind of face that you forget the second you turn away. Medium height, medium build – pale skin and eyes (green, maybe blue). Pure vanilla. No danger there. No heat. Totally blendable. In a crowd, he’s a ghost. Nobody sees him. Nobody seeks him out for friendship or advice. Air dressed in a human suit.

And so he’s free to do his work. Free to seek out the downcast and forgotten. The erasibles that society steps over, upon and around. The children whose mothers bond more with their cell phones than them. The husbands who serve only to provide credit cards and hold purses or shopping bags. The pets that nobody wants. The seniors whose families leave them in nursing homes or ‘communities’ and never visit.

While they sleep or cry or sit alone on a bench or stoop, he listens. To the words they dare not utter, the dreams hidden in their hearts, the tears they show no one, the pain that is daily living. And with a breath as soft as a summer breeze he sends all that pain into the ether and exchanges it with hope.

Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess but I hope there are superpowers involved.

Annie

Like a chimp in a china shop

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So in my quest to actually get my books published and introduced to the world this week, I endeavored to put together an email, announcing the same.

If you’re like me, with little to no design experience or savvy you’re probably smart to set up one of those email services. They have templates with simple drag and drop functions and/or themes so it’s just a matter of putting your marketing email together and moving on to the next step in your marketing strat.

And that’s just what I did. I set up a Mail Chimp account and played around with a few elements and figured it’d be a slam dunk. Easy-peasy. I had a nifty little promo piece I was going to slide in there with a little copy and that would be it. Bada-boom,bada-bing, right?

Not so much. The ‘simple’ drag and drop method of building an email template turned out to be not so simple after all. I was dragging but the components weren’t dropping. Or they were dropping in the wrong place. And I couldn’t get my promo piece to look right. And the pictures of the books had to be resized but they looked all wrong.

So I scratched my original concept and went with one of their ‘themes.’ Piece of cake, right? Not for me. The templates are comprised of a text blocks, images, and elements with certain specs. If your text and images don’t fit, you have to cut, resize, drag, and pray it’ll work. In my case – it didn’t. Certain things just didn’t want to drop or drag where I wanted them to be, so in frustration I’d delete the element. But then it would leave a white space that I simply couldn’t get rid of no matter what I did. I think I tried every theme and template they had but nothing came out right.

I’d also forwarded a few of the test emails to a couple of friends for feedback. One of my friends couldn’t see the images and had just big gaping blank spaces to look at.

After eight hours of fiddling with emails and sending test emails to myself to see how my emails looked (dreadful) I was about as coherent as a monkey who’d over indulged in banana brandy and a box of chocolates.

But I wasn’t willing to give up because I have many other things to do and wouldn’t have time to deal with it later. As a last ditch attempt I went with a simple text template and that was better. Still there was work to be done.
So this morning, I figured it out and I think I have a simple, easy to read email that looks pretty good. Well…okay, anyway.

The take-aways

If you’re like me and really don’t know or understand design, even the simple drag and drop method can be daunting and yield crappy results. And you can spend hours driving yourself mad and still not get the results you want. What worked for me was:

  • Use the simple text template. You can still add images, text blocks, social sharing buttons, etc. But since it’s very bare bones you won’t have to worry about getting rid of or reordering things that exist in a theme or dealing with a predetermined layout.
  • Resize you images in another program. If you don’t have the software on your own computer, there are a couple of online sites where you can effectively resize images that look good. Pxlr and iPiccy were the two that worked best for me.
  • Use no more than three images. Part of my problem was that I was trying to put too many images in one little email. The result was a cluttered mess. When I let go of the idea of having to use my existing promo piece and just used the cover images for the books, the email instantly looked cleaner and more focused. So pick the three best images you have or want to use and save the other images for other venues.
  • Design your layout before you start working on it. I found that simply opening a Word Doc and rearranging the text, headlines and images until I found the layout I liked made it much easier to put the actual email template together. I just kept it open and referred to it as I was building the email.
  • Less is more. When you’re anticipating releasing a book or a product that you’ve spent a long time working on, it’s natural to want to make a big splash. But let’s be real. We all get a bazillion emails a day, most of which is some type of advertising or another. So don’t turn your email into a web page. Just give them the basics – some nice images, a couple of snappy headlines, good interest-peaking text, and how they can get what you’re offering.

How about you? Have any tips on putting together a nice email to promote your book? Ever sent one that was a disaster? What happened? Tell us in the comments.

Annie

Kindle Unlimited Gets a Big Thumbs Up from Howey and other Good Stuff

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Kindle Unlimited Scores a Knockout by Hugh Howey. Hugh weighs in on Kindle Unlimited with what I believe is sound reasoning. But the highlight is the comments – some will make you laugh, some will make you scratch your head and others will make you go, what????

Why Social Media is Still Your Best Path to Book Visibility by Anne R. Allen. Anne provides good solid reasons why social media is still the best way for authors to gain visibility.

How to Get the Perfect Author Photo by Bill Ferris. It’s a little tongue in cheek but there are a few viable tips hidden in there.

Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book by Blake Atwood. A good nuts and bolts article on self-editing.

And just for fun and avid readers, the Top 100 downloads from the Gutenberg Project (free)

Have a great week everybody.

Annie

You have to believe in yourself

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Creative work is never easy. Writing in particular is very isolated and frankly can get lonely. Hence the need to pester friends, family and sometimes complete strangers into reading your work – or work in progress.

Writing a book is a big endeavor – whether it takes you two months or two years to write it, you still put in the time. Usually hundreds of hours. Many of those hours are spent researching and then agonizing over word choices, character arcs, plot lines, themes, and the message. Often times you have no idea why you are so compelled to write the story. Why it is so important to you. But it is. It definitely is.

And when you finish, there is usually no one there to tell. So, you pour another cup of coffee and then drop off your dry cleaning or go grocery shopping.

There are always people along the way who help. Who offer support and encouragement. And God bless them because without them, a lot of writers might at this minute, be wandering through public parks mumbling to themselves about plot twists and causing strangers to hold their children close to them.

But here’s the thing. No matter how much your friends and family may say they understand, they don’t. They can’t wrap their wits around how important this thing, this book is to you. How much you care and the devotion you have put into it. Think about it, it would take the average person 8-10 hours to read what it’s taken you months, perhaps even years to write. Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

So when you are a nervous wreck while waiting for your file conversion, or lining up a photographer, a book cover designer or hovering your cursor over the publish button your friends and family are:

  • Wondering what to make for dinner
  • Worried about how much their kid’s braces will cost
  • Scraping up the money to fix the car
  • Trying to figure out why their lawn isn’t green enough
  • Or – fill in the blank

They most definitely aren’t thinking about your book or your launch into self publishing. Some may even think you’re just enjoying a hobby.

So this is your life. The one you chose. And you can’t look to or expect others to carry the weight for you. To buoy you up when you’re dropping like a stone to the bottom. To give you a pep talk when you’re wallowing in doubts. You have to believe in yourself because:

  • No one but you truly understands what it means to you
  • Everybody else has their own life and worries
  • They’ll be plenty more (and worse) storms to weather ahead
  • If what you’re doing matters to you, what other people think shouldn’t matter
  • If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will

In the words of the incomparable Chuck Wendig, “Art hard, motherfucker.” And that ain’t no lie.

But maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it. And afterwards, everyone who knows you will say they knew you could do it. And for the briefest of moments you can bask in the self-confidence that you rarely have a grasp on.

 

Writing, secrets and self-publishing

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Much of the creative world is built around secrets. Creatives and those who market, manage, and leverage them are very hush-hush about projects – lest someone steal it or leak it. Surprise I suppose is the proffered reason. And controlling the message. And probably most important – ensuring no one else beats you to the punch.

The publishing industry is no exception to the rule. Which may be why so many authors find it exceedingly difficult to break in to the inner circle of successful authorship. And even of those authors who do manage to break in, the majority of them:

  • Make little to no money
  • Don’t gain a strong readership
  • Lose their rights to their work for life
  • Never get to quit their day jobs

Although many mainstream best-selling authors offer advice, write books, create courses, and espouse formulas that they followed to become successful – as far as I can tell – these offerings do little to nothing to help hopeful authors actually succeed.

Independent authors exceptions to rule

Then Amazon did this wild and crazy thing – they created an eReader. And then created a platform for writers to publish and sell their own works to a practically limitless audience. And authors started to succeed on their own where the publishing industry had let them down.

Say what you will about indie authors and criticize them all you like but in my mind there is a significant difference between them and mainstream traditional authors. They talk. They don’t keep secrets. Most of them will tell you everything they did, with copious details, to succeed. Because they aren’t beholding to a publishing company or contract. They are free to create and share any and all of their experiences. Often with wild abandon. Because they want to help other authors succeed. And they want readers to have more choices. Secrets by and large don’t seem to matter to them. Go figure. More books, more choices, more readers seem to be the priorities.

Indie author up close and personal

I’m about to self publish a 3-book mystery series and as part of my prep leading into the release of the books I have a list. One of the things on that list was to pick a successful indie author and study them. So last week I picked a well-known indie author and read his entire blog. It took me about five days to read five years of blog posts. I was totally immersed in this fellow’s world and journey for nearly a week and I have to say I learned a lot:

The good

The good news is that anyone who is willing to do the work, can publish and succeed. And that success can be and should be defined by the author. You want to be a best seller? Great then go for it. You’d be happy to be a working author who can quit your day job and live on your author earnings – you can do that too. As long as you do the work.

The bad

You have to do the work. You have to make choices. Sacrifices. You won’t get there by turning out one book every two years. You won’t get there by sitting around playing video games. If you don’t approach it as a business and accept that you are also a publisher and have all the attendant duties and obligations of a publisher it won’t happen. And it can and probably will take years. It ain’t a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon.

The elating

There is no editorial censoring. You can write the stories that you want to write. The stories you feel you were meant to write. You don’t have to write formulaic drivel because that’s what sells. You can maintain your own true voice and creative integrity. And you can find a readership who wants to read your stories.

The frightening

It’s all on you. There are no editors or publishers to blame. There are no agents to bitch about. There is only you, your work, the quality of your work and your own marketing efforts. And luck too plays a part. Being at the right place at the right time. That is something over which you have no control.

The take away

I believe the one thing that all indie authors have in common is a pioneer spirit. Though they may be nervous or afraid they are still willing to explore the unknown. To blaze new trails. To go in their own direction and take a risk on themselves. To invest in themselves. And to accept each step as its own lesson, even if that step fails. They may not succeed but it won’t be for any want of trying. And if they do then that success is all the sweeter because they did it their way. They bet on themselves and won.

Is self-publishing for everyone?

I don’t know. But I don’t think that it is. There are some authors who want the security of a publishing company. They want to have someone else provide the infrastructure and follow a game plan that in large part is set by someone else. Or perhaps they need someone to keep them on the path, to issue deadlines, to insist they do the work. When you self-publish that all falls on your shoulders. There is no one watching to make sure you do what you’re supposed to do. That you keep writing, that you continue to produce, sell, market and do the work. And that’s fine. All authors should follow the path that works for them. If you want a publisher then absolutely go that way. If you’re willing to take all the risks yourself then go that way. The great thing is that you can choose and aren’t forced into choosing a path you don’t want.

So as I approach my own self-publishing adventure, I look forward to it with elation and fear. I truly have no idea what will happen. Or if anything will happen. Not one clue. It’s a crap shoot for sure. And I’ve already started the next series because that’s what I do. Write. Will I ever be on that list of best-selling indie authors? It’s anybody’s guess. But like they say, go big or stay home. Right?

How about you? What do you think about indie authors? Are you an indie author. Do you plan to self publish? Or have you already? Any tips or lessons learned you’d like to share?

I would like to say thank you

 

acknowledgmentI know that it is traditional to include an acknowledgment page in your book – thanking all those who helped along the way. And if my brain hadn’t been Swiss cheese these last few weeks, I’d have had the presence of mind to add one. My bad. Please accept my apologies.

So, I would like to use this space to thank the many people who have helped me in my journey of writing a 3-book series.

Kelly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the endless reads and the total willingness to read it yet again. Your encouragement, enthusiasm, and support made this possible. I doubt I could have gotten through the insanity of writing three books without you. Thank you.

Jody. Your insight into story, plot, and character helped me write better books. Much better books. And made me want to write better stories as well. Your help with the research on Book 2 was also invaluable and more helpful than you’ll ever know. Thank you.

William. Your feedback has been valuable and has served to keep me enthused about the prospect of publishing these books. I hope you’re right and people will like them. Thank you.

Lyn. Not only did you help to ensure all the tees were crossed and the i’s dotted, your insight and feedback on the storyline and character arcs were perfect and much appreciated. Thank you.

Jess. I love, love, love the covers you did for my books and hope everybody thinks they are as awesome as I do. Your patience and persistence with me while I changed my mind a bazillion times makes you pretty close to a saint in my book. Thank you.

Bob, Pam, Pam F., Debi, Debba, Marli, Michelle, Mom, Rick, Becky, and Cora your encouragement has meant the world to me. Thank you.

DL Perching, your awesome promo and Twitter ‘support’ and friendship, though new has been awesome and I look forward to being at the forefront when your book comes out. Thank you.

Ri DelRio – your Twitter madness and encouragement is something that gets me out of bed and running to my computer every morning. And I’m not kidding about the picture. Thank you.

Readers. All you folks who come to my blog and read my posts, like them, comment on them, tweet and share them, I can’t thank you enough either. There is nothing that means more to a writer than to know someone wants to read what you write. Thank you.

Indie Writers. Many of you, I read your blogs. You inspire me. You make me believe that I can do it too. You make me want to reach further and higher. Your generosity of advice, tips, tricks, and just plain old cheerleading the indie song has helped me tremendously. I’m amazed by how open and supportive you guys all are and I thank you.

So…being the dunderhead that I am, I’m sure I’ve left someone out. And I’m sorry in advance if I’ve done that. But truly I am grateful to each and every one of you who have given a word of encouragement, advice, shared a laugh and read, listened to me whine, reassured me – all of it and any of it. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you, all.

Annie

Jane Friedman Gives us the Lowdown on How Your Book Becomes a Movie – and other cool stuff

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How a Book Becomes a Movie by Jane Friedman. Dream of your book someday becoming a movie? Jane gives you the lowdown on how the moon, stars and Hollywood all have to align to make that happen. Excellent read.

The Future Is Freelance by John Bond. Mr. Bond gives us five good and sound reasons why more and more the publishing biz will be and is using freelancers. I say hooray.

Japanese readers spend the most on electronic books from Business Insider. Interesting, the favored book format in Japan is eBooks. Can’t say that doesn’t make me happy.

How Changing Your Reading Habits Can Transform Your Health by Michael Grothaus. “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.” Fascinating and insightful article about some heretofore unknown (at least to me) side benefits of reading.

A few thoughts on new writers and “doing everything right” by Kristen Painter. Sage and straight from the hip advice. Good one.

Just for fun: If you’re stuck trying to come up with a super villain, this villain generator may be just the ticket or a time suck. Up to you.

Meanwhile, I’m working on getting my series release ready to shoot out into the universe. That could be fun. More details later.

Have a great week everybody.

Writer Chick