Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I Learned From Self-Publishing

I didn't quite make the exact date I set for my book to release on July 31, but I was close. In the spirit of the Olympic times, I think I earned a silver, at the worst a bronze in self-publishing, and I'm going to go for gold next time. It's not perfect yet, but hey, it's pretty, darn good for a first try, and I learned so much about myself and about publishing for myself.

With the idea of educating anyone else who is considering the indie path, here are the top ten things I learned from indie-publishing my book "Edge of Mercy":

10. Even if they are very supportive, your family (especially your seven-year-old) won't feel the same urgency to get every little detail just right that you do. Matter of fact, they might even complain about "all that time you spend in front of the computer."

9. Which leads me to my next point--The first time you self-publish, be prepared to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Beyond typing, editing, re-editing, re-re-editing, you will also be communicating with editors, beta-readers, formatters, cover artists, potential readers, reviewers, previous self-pubbers. Also, per the learning curve, each step takes trial and error, which can be time-consuming. Very time-consuming.

8. To save money, you CAN do everything yourself, but be prepared for some very painful and epic FAILS if you choose to do so. I did my cover countless times, not always because I didn't like it. Sometimes, it was because computer gremlins attacked. Sometimes, it was because my short-term memory has issues. A couple times, I formatted, converted, converted, saved, and then realized I'd forgotten some of the front and back matter of the book. I was on a less-than a shoestring budget, so I did everything myself, but next time, I plan to hire freelancers as much as I can.

7. If you're going to save time, you CAN'T figure it all out yourself. You have to research the process. The good news--there are bookoos of resources available. You just have to find them. Personally, two resources I count as invaluable to my process are and the Indie Romance Ink Yahoo loop. Both are beyond informative, and I wouldn't have attempted anything I have without the many willing self-pubbers sharing their successes as well as mistakes. It was a quicker and, in many ways, better education than the one I went to college for. The Indie community is a generous group.

6. There will be bumps along the way, some major potholes. One that comes to mind is when I uploaded to Turns out, they want a different size cover image than the other sites. It took me a good twenty minutes to figure out why it wouldn't load my cover. Then another thirty to re-size to the right dimensions. I will probably go back and tweak that one when I can because it skewed the cover to re-size it. But, the point is, expect problems, and if you can, which I didn't do well this time, give yourself EXTRA time to compensate for the inevitable issues that arise.

5. Do a "soft-release" first. This basically means, actually set a release date, but upload it at least a week ahead of time. It's best to upload to Smashwords about three weeks before your intended release because it takes up to that long to get into the premium catalog which is how you get distributed to other retailers. But if you're like me, you're tweaking and editing constantly until you have to publish it to keep yourself from going crazy in the pursuit of perfection. Barnes and Noble and Kobo can take up to 72 hours, and though Amazon usually takes less than a day, there have been threads on the Yahoo loop that mentioned it has taken up to a week. So, it's best to upload well before you actually plan to announce the release. If you happen to get a few buys before the official day, maybe they'll post a good review and get things moving all that much quicker.

4. One of the best benefits of self-publishing, especially electronically, is the fact you can upload changes easily. Don't get me wrong; you want to get your book to the best it can be before you publish, but if you want to add back matter (links to new releases), a different cover, a tighter blurb, or (hopefully not, but it happens) edits, you can do it with a click of the mouse. This is different from trad publishing because if there were mistakes, an author didn't always get a second chance to get it right. Now, keep in mind, any earlier versions that were downloaded before the changes will remain the original version; however, at Amazon, at least, there is a way to send out a message to let people know they can download an updated book if they would like.

3. Believe it or not, you're going to obsess over your baby. Yes, it's true. You will probably be like every other newbie pubber and check your numbers constantly. Eventually (I hope), this will fade, but at first, sales reports, rankings, reviews are going to be the Three "R's" that rule your every waking moment. If you can though, set limits for yourself. Only check sales reports once (or twice at the most) a day. Set a particular time, and hopefully when the numbers go up, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Also, don't stress over rankings. Yes, the higher you are on the "lists," the more visible you will be, but your first book isn't going to soar to number one (MINE IS!) without a lotta, lotta help and luck. Eventually though, with a few marketing hits, you might see a surge in rankings. Then again, you might not until you have more to offer (but I'll get to that in a minute). And, of course, the scariest "R" of them all--reviews--will make you sweat at night, if you let it. First, the anxiety is because you don't have ANY reviews. Then, when the reviews begin coming in, that's a whole different kind of scary. Just keep in mind, it's rare to please everyone. Hopefully, you'll find your audience quickly and get a few 5*'s to start things off, but if you don't, don't let it get you down. Don't over-think what you could have done differently. Just realize not everyone is going to like what you write, and that's just the way life works. In that case, grab some chocolate, your fave soothing beverage, and put your BICHOK to work on the next one.

2. Truth is, you just have to go for it. No matter how hard you work on your manuscript, there's no such thing as perfect. Eventually, if it's something you want to do, you just have to create the best product you can and share it with the world. Believe me, no one is going to believe in your book more than you, but no one is going to even know about it unless you share. Plus, some people will even PAY you to read it. So yeah, we all write because we love it and all that shhttuff (tee-hee), but if you're interested in publishing, you're probably interested in making money doing what you love. For the first time, authors (not just the super best-sellers) have the opportunity to make a living writing. But you can't do that unless you go for it.

1. Finally, time for the next one. As hard as it is, the best marketing you could do for your book (read: my most precious) is to write the next one. Each book teaches you more about your craft and yourself, so they get better the more you write. Plus, once you actually do find your audience, they're going to want more of your work. You need to have more to offer, and the only way to do that, is to write the next one. Also, the reality is, this seems to be the way to move up in the rankings consistently--putting out new books regularly (see number 3), especially if you can make your first one a loss leader. Readers will get hooked with the first book. Then come back for all the others (::crosses fingers::).

I hope you found something helpful in this post. Now, I'm off to obsess over my sales and rankings. Yeah, I know--number 3. I'm learning, but I'm far from perfect.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Post by Cherie Marks

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting Started: Writing Blurbs and Descriptions

When I started self-publishing, there weren't quite as many authors doing it as there are now. I ended up looking to the music industry for marketing advice because indie musicians already abounded and were flourishing. Turns out that the ability to describe a creative work is every bit as critical to marketing as a great cover that draws the eye initially.

Here's a short video (3 min) from Derek Sivers who sold his company "CD Baby" and used the proceeds to fund a charity that helps other musicians get going in their careers. What he says about the importance of description in making someone want to listen to a piece of music makes a lot of sense. I also think it explains why a good book description is so important when you are trying to get a potential reader to give you a chance.

If you do a Google search, you will get wide ranging information about "writing good blurbs", while a search for "writing good book descriptions" tends to yield articles about writing descriptions period. My frustration made me decide this was one of times where the good articles needed to be captured and shared. So if you consider "blurbs" to be just author recommendations, then this article is not about blurbs.

In my personal searches I found some articles referred to ALL the content on the back of the book as "blurbs" including author recommendations from other authors or reviewers. However, my focus in this article was on writing the summary description of what the book is about in an appealing enough way to attract readers to take a chance on reading it. The focus of this article is on book "descriptions", but I wanted to make sure it appeared in Google searches, so I left "blurb" in the title. If we ever do an article on blurbs, I'll try to remember to come back to this post and update it with a link.

Despite the number of books I've published now, I might just be the worst person to write on this subject. Why? Because I hate writing book descriptions. When I began releasing my SciFi Romances, I was practically in tears over not being able to describe Book One in a way that seemed fair to how interesting the book was on the inside. Partly I was struggling because I could not find a single helpful site that helped me clarify how to categorize my work. Was it SciFi? Was it Space Opera? Was it a Paranormal Romance? Was it Fantasy? Nothing blocks a book more from marketing success than genre confusion because sales channels demand you choose, and Amazon only lets you choose two. If you can't clearly tell someone what kind of book you have written, how can you sell it in a description? I was a confused mess. I had not experienced that sort of problem with my Contemporary Romances. They were niche, but I at least felt a confidence in what they were. God bless both my editor and my author friend, Teresa Reasor. They each reviewed my efforts and helped me refine them enough to write a decent description.

Even after multiple revisions of several bad descriptions, and the trauma of my confused one, I still have a lot more room to improve. When I released my latest book, to avoid the lengthy work of trying to write a long description, I went with using my shortest one on all channels. It offers little to the reader, or at least that's how it seems to me, even though I followed some good guidelines in creating it. However, as short as it is, the short description is still larger than sites like Sony, Diesel, and Kobo allow via Smashwords. Now I'm watching to see if anyone says anything or if only having the short description affects sales.

One of the advantages of traditional publishing, or at least it used to be an advantage, is that the author sometimes gained a marketing team that helped with basic marketing efforts, like covers, blurbs, and descriptions. In the self-publishing world, the author has to write them. If I ever find an independent freelancer who convinces me they are a magician at writing descriptions, I would definitely consider paying them to write mine. Until then, here are a few of my favorites articles:

5 Tips for Writing a Compelling Book Blurb by Amy Wilkins

How To Write Back Blurb For Your Book

My Method for Writing a Book Description (Karen McQuestion)

Writing Great Blurbs

If you have other sites to add to these, please put the link in a comment.

Post by Donna McDonald

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On The Other Side of The Internet

Independent authors spend a lot of time online doing all sorts of connecting across the Internet. All published authors have had (or will have) the experience of being on the end of hateful remarks about our work, or emails like those described in the video. It never feels good and always hurts.

The main point of the message about communication in this video is probably best summarized by Derek Sivers' video title. It reminds us that on the other side of each Internet connection is "A real person, a lot like you".

Thanks to PG from Passive Voice for sharing this video on his blog. PG referred to this information as his "commenting policy" which just makes me like him and his blog more. I also noticed Derek Sivers is a frequent TED talks speaker, so I'll be heading to check out the rest of his offerings.

This information seems to be a great message. Many thanks to Mr. Sivers.

Posted by Donna McDonald

Monday, August 6, 2012

*Updated August* Huge List of Cover Artists For Indie Writers

One of the hardest things to do when you self-publish is find a cover artist that will understand your vision and create an eye-catching, cohesive representation of your story. The cover of the book sells the book, and you may have to change your cover several times before you find what reaches the most readers. I’ve been lucky in receiving several fabulous covers from my e-pubs, and I wanted the same thing with my self-pub titles.
As I was wading through sites trying to find what I wanted, I realized there was no one resource for indie authors, so I created my own list of book cover designers, many of which have pre-made covers available. This list was compiled from one of the Indie loops I am a member of, blog posts, websites, word-of-mouth and research.

The two most recent I have used are The Author’s Red Room for my erotic romance and Viola Estrella for the suspense novel I have planned. Be sure to give the artists as much lead time as possible to develop your cover. It will be worth the wait.

Also have a huge stock selection.

She did my two Decadent titles, but I do not think she is accepting new orders right now.

Huge stock selection.

Have a huge stock selection too.

You may have to sign in, but it’s super easy and well worth it.

She does covers, editing and formatting.

For Etopia press 

The 15 above thanks to Jenna Scribbles

covers and formatting

 $75 for e-book covers

*NEW* to the list-
I don’t even remember where I gathered them all, but if you know of more, leave their names and sites in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

JM Madden

Taryn Raye

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Triberr Basics for the Beginner

I have to admit, joining new social media networking sites can be daunting, especially for a writer, whose time is precious when you’d rather be writing than spending all day checking emails and touching base with each individual media outlet. It’s one reason I have yet to join Pinterest because I know I’d get hooked looking at pretties and sparklies, filling folders with favorite books, flowers, butterflies, cats or finding handsome men to represent my heroes and beautiful women I think favor my heroines.

I did recently make the foray into Triberr though and unfortunately, I didn’t read up on it before I joined, so I’m constantly learning as I go. I wasn’t even sure what Triberr was about except that other authors were starting to use it.

It can be a bit confusing when you first join, especially if you haven’t taken the time to read up on the tutorials and guides on I wasn’t even aware of this separate yet connected entity until awhile after I joined. There are explanations of certain features as you work your way through the set up, but they still have glitches and features I'm not 100% clear about. Of course, I jumped in headfirst rather than reading all their posts about the hows, wheres, whens and whys of the place, so as I said, there’s definitely a learning curve.

The main gist of Triberr is to join or create tribes with like-minded bloggers who enjoy similar blogging themes. Mine, of course, is writing related- Taryn Raye’s Scribbling with Heart. You share your fellow tribemates blog posts- in turn, they share yours, and therefore, you will have a larger, more powerful reach concerning your blog content. One of the best parts- you can go and approve all the current blog posts in the morning and as the day moves along, those posts are automatically sent in intervals whether you’re online or not (more in on that in a minute).

As for inviting others- I'd like to have more members, but you start with only 100 bones and each invite you send or accept spends 15 bones unless you invite someone from the outside who is not a member at all. I have found this is not necessarily the case as I invited outside and it still cost bones so I’m not sure what happened there. I am aware that the site is still in the process of rewriting certain aspects so it will run better and perhaps that’s simply a downfall of getting in on the “ground floor” so to speak- there are glitches in the system that might be unavoidable.

At the moment, I only have so many "bones" that I can spend on adding tribemates. I’ve had to become more discerning when it comes to requests I’ve received. I'm still new to it myself and from what I gather, it seems there used to be a way to "earn" more bones by doing things on the site and helping others by giving them "karma," but at the moment they don't have a way to do that. From a few of the topics in the main forums or "bonfires" it seems some members figured out a way to earn more bones than they should have been allotted by doing that, so they shut it down to everyone on account of a few bad apples.

Right now, the only other way to get more bones is to buy them with real money. You can get 150 for $10, but because it costs 15 bones to invite someone and 15 of their bones to join a tribe as well, you end up going through bones quickly. It makes getting more people in your tribe frustrating when you get down to not having enough to add someone when they request to join your tribe or when you find someone you want to add but can't afford to.

I hope they fix that so it will be easier to get bones an alternative way. I can’t afford to buy more bones with real money to add people all the time. It's an added expense to my pocketbook that I can't afford and I’m sure its that way for a lot of members. If I can't earn more bones, then it will stunt the growth of my Tribe and therefore, my social reach. That’s the main goal of being a member of Triberr- the more people you connect to through your tribe, and other tribes you might join, helps grow the "audience" who sees the blogs you post and that gets more attention to your books and your "business."

The part of sharing other tribemates blogs isn't too hard once you figure out how to go through and approve the current blog posts from everyone in your Tribal Stream so those will post to Twitter at intervals. I have mine set so that once I approve all the current new blogs, they'll post approximately every 20 minutes or so. At first I worried about this because I didn’t want to set it to post constantly, but soon I discovered it doesn’t post in one fell swoop, but one individual blog post per 20 minutes which is the minimum amount of time. I think you can set it to post up to every 120 minutes, so you don't annoy fellow Twitter users or flood your Twitter Feed like someone spamming it.

The thing I like about it most is that you get a chance to see many different blogs and you can comment on them if you want or just simply share them to your Twitter for others to see. You're supposed to be able to post them to Facebook too, but for some reason, when I connected it to my Facebook profile, it wasn't posting anything at all to it from Triberr but they may still be working the bugs out of it since it's a new option. Or it could be that I don’t really need it to feed to Facebook since my posts on Twitter feeds to Facebook already and perhaps there was a application conflict.

They've also recently added a new feature on there too so you can see how often, within the last 30 days, your fellow tribemates share blog posts. Sadly, some don't share their tribemates posts at all, even if they post their own blogs for others to share. There's bound to be some "weeding" eventually that will go on among tribes for those who aren't considerate of the other members and fail to share. I have a few people who haven't shared at all in the last 30 days, but I can't remember if I've seen blogs from them come through the stream. If they see it post on Twitter and share or retweet it directly from there, it doesn't count on Triberr, so it's somewhat hard to know if they are sharing via a different route or not.

All in all, I'm still deciding whether to warm to it or not. It does have advantages and disadvantages just as you do with any other social networking site. I love knowing more people see my blog posts but I’m aware that bugs and maintenance issues abound with any form of media that is ever-changing and attempting to come up with newer, better, faster ways to assist their target membership and audience.

If you do blog a lot though, if you feel you have content worth sharing with other writers and you don’t mind sharing an eclectic variety of other writers’ blogs, then finding a “writing” tribe on Triberr is definitely a good format to help you spread your reach and grow your audience.

Post by Taryn Raye

Friday, July 27, 2012

KIW Has Their Share of "Jimmy" Covers

In the romance industry, cover model Jimmy Thomas has appeared on over 3400 book covers across all genres. Those who have worked with him know he has turned his modeling into a very beneficial business to help the romance novel industry, essentially starting out as an indie himself within his modeling field.

Thanks to KIW member Jowanna Kestner for recommending this very informative and entertaining interview. In addition to Jimmy Thomas, this interview includes cover artist, Fiona Jayde, authors, and TJ MacKay, founder, publisher and reviewer at In'Dtale magazine.

Here are the covers from KIW authors which feature Jimmy Thomas:
Buy from Amazon
The first wonderful cover is from fellow KIW author Hayden Bradburn and just happens to be her debut book. I didn't even recognize Jimmy, but she's says the cover artist lightened his hair. Thomas mentioned that on some covers, artists have made him blonde and done some amazing work. 

Buy from Amazon
This is a very young version. Thomas says he's been doing covers since 1998 and talks about why he's left the younger, leaner version of himself up for sale. Since those early days, he became a competitive martial artist. The newer body is complements of working out and that training.

And here's another cover from KIW author, Kallypso Masters. This one is very different and shows the range of emotion and sensuality of the model. Just FYI, Jimmy is the guy posing on the bed with the female model.

There is also an interesting discussion of the lack of models with his body type for covers these days. Apparently, high profile modelling agencies think his body has gone out of fashion. Right. I laughed about that myself. I bet Thomas laughs every time he deposits payments from those who disagree.

Buy from Amazon
Trivia for long time romance addicts: Fabio was on something like 288 covers. Jimmy Thomas (working with indies) has exceeded 3400, and has crossed most genres. Note though that many of the newer genres didn't exist in their current forms during Fabio's mega appearances on historical covers.

Other "Jimmy covers" in our group are Taryn Raye's historical and Devon Matthews western romance. Both have mentioned they are considering him for future covers. Actually, every author in our group cited being pleased with their Jimmy Thomas covers.

Buy from Amazon
One of the more interesting things Thomas talks about is working with authors to do a series. He spoke specifically about a $300 package that got the author/cover artist a customized pose from a photo shoot he directs himself. He has an extensive list of models he uses. There was also some interesting reasons why he doesn't let the female models he works with style their hair or have fake nails.

Another piece of interesting trivia he shares (and one I was surprised to hear): 

He says he's been doing this for many years and that not once has any author or reader at a conference made an over-the-top overture or gotten too hands on with him. He says the authors and other industry professionals he meets will tease and joke, but they don't cross the line. He attributes it to the fact that he puts out a vibe that says he's a professional model and this is both his art and work. He finds romance cover artists and novelists great to work with because of their professionalism, which is why he ended up doing what he has for a living.

It seems our writer's group is full of evidence of Jimmy's success.   Some of the listed authors have said they plan to use him again, especially those with series.

Buy from Amazon

Note about In'Dtale magazine:

It seems our writer's group is gaining momentum in the industry.

The book of another of our KIW authors, Kathy Logan, is featured in the shot of the In'Dtale magazine book review site in the video. Watch for that somewhere in the first 15 minutes of the video when the interviewer flashes to that site.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making time to write

When people who don’t know me very well find out that I write books, they ask, “How do you have time for that?” It’s a legitimate question. I’m a full-time middle school teacher, and my husband and I have three children who need our attention, homework assistance, and regular transportation! My life is full and busy, and it would be very, very easy to let the writing slip through the cracks. But I don’t. It’s not always easy, but I make time for it, because it’s important to me.

I’ve had to be creative about finding time to write. Unfortunately, setting aside a regular chunk of time to devote to my writing just doesn’t work for my family’s situation and schedule, so I’ve figured out a few things that do work for me. It’s not an exact science, and I am certainly no expert, but I know the things that have allowed me to keep writing despite all the other responsibilities that require my attention.

Tip 1: Get Mobile

My first recommendation is to make your writing-self mobile. By this I mean it’s super helpful to have some sort of technology that allows you to write wherever, whenever. For me, I’ve found it essential to not be tied down to wherever my desktop computer is! Before I used a laptop computer for mobile-writing, I used an AlphaSmart Word Processor. The AplhaSmart is not as pricey as a laptop, but offers the same type of mobility. An iPad or other table can also serve this same purpose. Being mobile means that I can write on my front porch, my desk at work, in the car on long trips, and a variety of other places. Because sometimes, the only free time I have is in the car!

Tip 2: Make Minutes Count

Learn to write productively in small batches. Productive writing time does not have to be an hour or more. In fact, for me, some of my most productive writing times are only 15 – 20 minutes. I’ve learned to squeeze writing into my lunch break, into the twenty minutes between the kids’ bedtime and mine, or the few minutes I have alone before the kids arrive home from school. When I know I have a few minutes coming up, I have the wheels turning in my head beforehand, thinking about what I want to accomplish. Using small batches of time intentionally, with a little forethought, can make those times super-productive.

Tip 3: Put Pen to Paper

Don’t discount the value of actual pen and paper. I know everyone is writing on a computer these days (me included!), but sometimes nothing replaces an actual piece of paper and a pen. For instance, if you’re shopping at the mall and all of a sudden the perfect bit of dialogue pops into your mind. Or maybe you’re sitting in church or a meeting and suddenly you have the majority of a plot playing out in your head. Those moments are GOLDEN! Don’t lose them because you aren’t at a computer. Write them down! I used to try to carry a journal with me, but it never seemed to stay in my purse, and my kids always wound up using it for doodling in the car, but I always have some scrap piece of paper, even if it’s just an empty envelope from a bill I’ve already paid! I plotted the biggest part of my current release on the back of 3 church bulletins on Sunday morning during church service. I know this is advice that any writer should - and probably does take to heart - but I think for those of us who are balancing demanding day jobs and parenting responsibilities, along with our writing, this bit of advice is particularly important.

Tip 4: Value the Prep Time
It’s extremely important to realize that writing is more than putting words on paper (or the computer screen). While it’s true that adding to the word count is the most concrete way to measure productivity, it’s also vital to recognize the importance of everything else that goes into writing. The research. The brainstorming. The plotting. The stewing. The stressing. It’s all a part of the whole. And without one or more of the parts, the whole would not be complete. In my extremely busy life that sometimes threatens to edge out my writing time, I’ve learned to recognize and value the time I spend doing the things that lead up to putting words on the screen. After all, I can plot while watching a middle school basketball game or scrambling eggs for breakfast!

It boils down to this: We make time for what’s important. And when the writing is important, as it is to all of us, we find ways to carve out time.

Post by Amy Durham

Monday, June 11, 2012

Interesting Link: POD at Independent Booksellers

This article started me thinking. Could this possibly save bookstores? Returned books could be placed into a "used" category for quick sale.

I guess the business person in me kicked in when I read this, but I find this a fascinating idea and hopeful for Indie authors.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Interesting Link: Barnes and Noble Marketing

Many authors do quite well selling at Barnes and Noble. The books I've let Smashwords put there have done better than the ones I have put there myself--until just recently when I have seen growth.

To improve my sales there, I've been trying to find some additional marketing help for the inside tricks of selling at Barnes and Noble. Here is one source that I found interesting. Plus it has a video by HP Mallory who just happens to be an Urban Fantasy author I like and have talked with in the past. She is an Indie who took a contract on some of her work and remained Indie on the rest. To me, she represents what is likely the "new reality" where most successful authors are going to be both Indie and Traditionally published.

Click here to go to the FB page where the videos are posted.

I haven't watched them all yet. Most of what I have heard so far I knew or had read elsewhere, but if you know of any other sites that have more PubIt marketing tips, please link them in a comment. Thanks!

Here's a link to the "Notes" part of the page where there is some good advice as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interesting links: Ways to Turn Blog into a Book

I thought this was a very helpful article and had some great ideas. I think after blogging for several years and accumulating hundreds of posts, this would be a good idea to make a bit of money from that writing. Giving the book away might also be a smart marketing strategy.

The author, Nina Amir, also has a book about this available for sale on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Value of Good Editing to Your Work

Writing is writing whether you do it from home, work, in your closet, in your bedroom or in the car. And those of us who are driven to put words on paper do it because we’re compelled to do so. You can be a writer your entire life and never publish anything. It doesn’t take courage to put your words to paper. Not until you start putting your words out there for others to read.

Publishing what you write probably takes more courage than the writing process ever will. You’re baring yourself to more criticism with the push of a button than you’ll face for any other action. And those criticisms are going to come from complete strangers if your story isn’t what they expect it to be.

A wide sweeping controversy has been ongoing about whether or not self-published authors are professional writers, and I have to say from personal experience, and from years of observing fellow writers and their struggles, WE ARE.

1. We are responsible for every word in our manuscript. Every plot device, every moment of character building, every paragraph of prose that sets the stage for the story comes from the writer’s imagination. The writer has always carried that weight. Not the entity that publishes it.

2. We spend the same amount of time formatting and editing our work as any publisher does. And sometimes more. I have reformatted my last two manuscripts four times each. I have a different format for every place my manuscript is available. I did that myself, not a publisher because I am the PUBLISHER.

3. We promote our work with more zeal than any publisher ever will. We use every social media device available to us and then some. What mainstream publisher have you seen doing anything but putting the book up for sell? So we don’t just wear our writer-publisher hat but a promoter’s hat as well. It’s me you’ll see on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Goodreads, Blogspot, the radio, newspaper, and any other media I can reach to get the word out that I’ve written a good book and it’s out there to be read.

4. As writers, publishers, and promoters, we who self-publish agonize over every missed comma, misspelled word, backwards quotation mark, and blemish that might detract from the reader enjoying our story. In fact, we agonize over them more because they’re our one opportunity to put our best PROFESSIONAL foot forward with readers.

We supply a product just like any publisher out there. And every self-published writer I’ve spoken to says that the formatting and editing of their books ranks right up there with the strength of the writing.

With that in mind, I put out an all call on several writing loops to get some feedback about the editing resources available to us. As always when you ask fellow writers for help, it comes pouring in with enthusiasm.

From all the feedback, the consensus was that it doesn’t matter how many of your writer friends have pored over your manuscript, a professional editor is the way to go. And I have to agree. My last manuscript was read by nine different people looking for mistakes. They did find some. But my copy editor found every typo, homophone, missed comma, everything that nine other people didn’t see. She gave me the opportunity to put my BEST work out there for everyone to read.

And she did one more thing for me. She lifted the worry I carried of putting a product out there that was less than what it should be. As a writer, publisher, promoter, I have to say that worry was HUGE.

Below is a list of wonderful editors who have helped others do the same thing. And I’m definitely including mine in the list.

The Authors Red Room

Lisa Constantino

Anne Victory

Jim Thomsen

Cathleen Ross

Helen Woodall

Nancy Cassidy

Red Circle Ink Editing

Jane Haertel

Wendy Ely

Faith Freewoman

The last editor on the list, Faith Freewoman, was my editor for TIMELESS, my latest release. She took the stress of worrying about finding all the small, pesky mistakes off my shoulders. And she put a professional polish on my work that made it so much easier to enjoy releasing the book.

The Editorial Freelancers Association  This link can offer you the range of pricing in hiring a freelance editor.

To get each editor’s rate you’ll have to do some research. Depending on what kind of editing you want done, from a deep line edit, to just light copy editing to find punctuation mistakes, the more you ask of your editor the more they have to charge for their time and expertise. So rates will run from a dollar a page to forty dollars an hour, and sometimes more. It will be up to you to decide what you need.

Write on, 
Teresa J. Reasor

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting Started: An Indie Frame of Mind

About 12 years ago, I went to my first writers' workshop hosted by a chapter of Romance Writers of America somewhere on the east coast of Florida. This was the first time I interacted with writers on any level other than online.  It was also the first time I came across people who had self-published their books.

I bought books from every writer who had a book for sale at the book signing.  An avid reader, I went home and started reading. Every single one of the self published books was quite terrible.  The editing was BAD.  The stories were BAD.  The plots made no sense.

From that moment on, my mind was made up about self published books.  My thought was, "If a publisher won't pick it up, it's probably not any good."

In my arrogance, I ignored all of the TERRIBLE books I'd read that had been published by major markets.  I ignored how angry I would get that "crap like that" got published when I KNEW I wrote better.

After that, all of my spare time was spent writing instead of reading.  For about ten years, I didn't read a piece of fiction. Right now, my reading list includes cookbooks, homemaking books, and Christian life style books, and I have a huge list of fiction I WANT to read and just simply no time to read.  So, while I have state of the art computers and a house that is so wired that my television talks to my hand held computer, I don't have an e-reader and haven't really delved into online reading.

Consequently, nothing ever really came across my path to change my impression about self published books until I joined the Kentucky Romance Writers. There I met a group of women who were amazing writers who had ventured out on their own and just published -- for different reasons and motivations. Some of them didn't have time to wait for a publishers. Some of them didn't have a publisher that fit their niche. Some were burnt out on traditional publishing and all of the bonds and chains that come with it. Whatever the case may be, they were independent published authors who were getting amazing reviews from their readers and were, by all intents and purposes, successfully published.

It really opened my eyes and it really encouraged me to step out there with them. I have a style of writing that will not fit into any preset "publisher" mode. It simply won't. It's too edgy for the Christian market and too Christian for the romance market. So, despite the prejudices of my youth, I ventured into the self publishing world. Doing so forced me into the world of marketing my book and REALLY introduced me to the world of self published authors and removed any blinders I had left.

It also really introduced me to how many people think, mistakenly, like I used to. 

Here is a for instance:

I sit on the board of an inspirational chapter of a major romance writing organization. I've been a member for four years and a board member for over two years. During a board meeting, it was discussed what to do about the definition of a "published" author because until this year, many organizations did not consider e-pubbed authors to "officially" be published. During the conversations, I cautioned the board about disregarding self-published authors because of the changes blooming in the publishing industry.

While there was a consensus from a very few members of the board that it is certainly something that will need to be addressed in the future, the discussion didn't continue. I don't think anyone really realizes just how much that NOW is what is forming the future.

When I published my book, Sapphire Ice, I was so excited.  I sent links and information to everyone I knew, including the email loop for this particular group. I didn't receive a single acknowledgement -- not a congratulations, not a good luck, not "great cover" -- not a single word. Recently though, a member got "the call", that one from a publisher that affirms "you're good enough". The support and encouragement and excitement flooded that particular email loop for over a week.

I think that instance, more than anything at all, really brought home to me just how much people STILL think like I used to think. I have been gifted by being surrounded by the extraordinary writers in the Kentucky Indies Writers group that publishes this blog. I have realized that despite preconceived ideas, I'd dare to say that MOST of the self published books out there, if they've been professionally edited, are probably quite good.

Organizations are going to have to change. Yes, we know that. Successful e-book and indie authors are leaving print authors in their prosperous wake.

But above and beyond organizations, the mindsets of the individuals who make up the general writing world need to change. I don't know what will make that happen other than time and exposure, or simply realizing that what we've always thought isn't what IS anymore. Times have changed, the industry is changing. Indie books are prominent in the molding and shaping of the future of publishing.

And, that isn't going to change.

Posted by Hallee Bridgeman

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interesting Links: Kindlegraphs

Sign up your Amazon books to allow your readers to request a Kindlegraph from you. A Kindlegraph is a way for an author to autograph a book electronically.  I have been doing this for my readers since I started publishing in 2011, but was reminded of it this weekend when I received new requests.

You will need your Amazon ASIN number to sign up and I believe each book must be listed to be eligible. The directions on the site give you all the information you need. Happy Kindlegraphing!  (I believe I owe my knowledge of this to either Kim Jacobs or JM Madden who told me about it last year.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Interesting Links: List of bestselling fiction writers

This is from Wikipedia, so it is subject to change by Wiki librarians. I liked that Shakespeare was at the top and was happy to note that I have read the work of most of them. Note how many romance authors are on the list and how close to the top those authors are.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Setting From A Sensual POV

For eons writers have been told setting is the culture, time, and place in which a story is set. But that definition only scratches the surface.

Setting is a character. That observation edges closer to how important a role it plays, but doesn’t quite go far enough. Setting interacts with characters, affects their physical beings, triggers an emotional response, plays upon their senses, and can even set a mood. It shares an intimacy with the characters only second to the relationship between the characters themselves. Intimacy-- what better term to use in explaining the relationship between character and setting?

Intimacy is characterized by a close, thorough acquaintance, and first hand, personal knowledge. It is developed through the interaction between two entities.

And for every moment of every scene Setting is there observing, tying the characters to a place and time in a physical manner, and deepening the point of view to draw the reader more thoroughly into the story.

Writing about Setting in terms of the five senses gives an elemental sensuality to every description and makes it more active. Setting does not have to be an inanimate location. In fact, locations are seldom inanimate.

As an example I’ll use a short passage from my paranormal suspense novel, TIMELESS:

           Loch Maree provided a purplish-blue backdrop to the circle of twenty stones topped by lintels that stretched nearly the width of the inlet. A knoll of ground provided a natural dam holding back the water. 
          Braden led her beneath the crossbar spanning a narrow path between two of the stones. Atop the limestone altar in the center of the site sat her basket, the long stems of several plants sticking over the sides. The edge of her tartan shawl, bunched beside it, fluttered in the breeze. Braden paused in the shade of one of the slabs, a sudden wary tension in his stance. 
          Warm moist air looped around them. A prickling sensation fluttered over Coira’s skin as though a lightning strike had just dispersed. The smell of smoke lingered on the breeze. 
          Braden’s grasp tightened around her hand, holding her at his side. 
          More curious than alarmed, she ran a soothing hand down his arm. “Be at ease. There is nothing to fear in this place.” 
          She closed her eyes and embraced the power that lingered on the air like mist. Pulling away from Braden’s grasp, she walked clockwise along the edge of the circle. A low hum traveled through the bottoms of her feet to the top of her head, the vibration intensifying as she neared one particular stone. The Ogham designs carved into the pillar writhed black, against the reddish light the setting sun painted upon the slab’s surface. 
          The air grew still and weighted with moisture. She tasted it, like dew, on her tongue. Her skin grew damp. The sound of the wind, the movement of the trees, her own breathing, ceased. Her ears felt full as if she had climbed a tall peak and needed to swallow to clear them. What was about here?

The physical interaction between the elements of Setting and characters can drive the plot, create a mood, and provide foreshadowing. By the elements I mean earth, air and water.


Possession of the land has triggered feuds and wars, cost life, limb, toil and strife, and been a source of power since mankind first banded into tribes. And a man’s or woman’s home can be their cave, hut, castle, or the spooky old house they’ve bought to renovate. The possibilities are limitless as are the scenarios the locations can inspire.

Here is an example of using location as a resting place for internal speculation such as in my contemporary Navy Seal novel, BREAKING FREE:

          Zoe helped herself to a small bowl of salad and wandered out to the screened-in back porch. She sat down in the old metal glider Hawk had renovated and placed against one wall. Green striped lounge pillows cushioned the seat. She propped her feet up on the brown wicker coffee table, and set the glider in motion. The sunset deepened to rose, maroon, and then purple painting the laminate floor with color. Through the screened windows, the sweet scent of honeysuckle wafted to her on the breeze. The cadence of the crickets thrummed in a synchronized ebb and flow. 
         The porch was fast becoming her favorite spot. She gravitated there to unwind when she arrived home from the hospital. Her bowl empty, she set it aside on the wicker end table beside the glider and eyed the sunken hot tub a few feet away. Maybe she could fill it after dinner when everyone left. With the aid of a few potted plants, and the canvas shades that could be lowered over the windows, she could find some privacy. Perhaps it would ease the pain in her calf from standing too long. 
          Imagining Hawk in the hot tub with any number of buxom, blonde beauties cost her more than a twinge or two of jealousy. A jealousy she tried to deny. Along with the feelings that inspired it. Every time she experienced the rush of excitement when he entered the room, or the hypersensitive tingle of heat when he touched her, a lingering ache centered just beneath her breast bone. 
          Better the ache of regret than the pain of caring for him more deeply and something happening to him.

By using the five senses to paint a picture you can add atmosphere to any location. Here’s an example from the horror novella I’m working on now called WITHIN THE SHADOWS.

          The heavy metal beat pounded against Julia’s ears drowning out the beep of the cash register as she keyed in the order. The base drum thumped in time with the headache throbbing behind her eyes. Jesus! She rubbed her temples. The rock and roll bands Hector hired were loud enough, but for the last two weeks, The Skulls’ music fell just short of an assault. 
          She scanned the dance floor where a strobe light flashed capturing stop-action gyrations of the couples dancing. Not couples, but the group, the collective. They moved as one. The smoke machine backstage provided a backdrop for the band and the audience. Painted and garbed in Goth style, the special effects lent the patrons the look of extras on a Day of the Dead movie set. 
          She wiped her workstation down with a damp sponge, tossed it in the sink, and turned her attention to the next order, a primal scream. The singer on stage broke into a demonstration. Julia flinched. Geez what was with this band? 
          As she snatched up the bottle of Kaluah from the packed shelves, the mirror behind the bar captured a brief glimpse of her pale face and exaggerated eye makeup. Movement, a form, stealthy, fast, and gray rose up behind her in the glass. With a startled yelp, she twisted around to face the threat. 
          Nothing. Nothing was there.


There is nothing inanimate about the weather or how it can become a thriving character in a story. Snow/Cold adds an element of physical threat to even the most lighthearted story. Typhoons, tornadoes, and hurricanes can add tension and suspense to any plot line. Fog has always added a sense of foreboding and atmosphere, a Gothic feel, to every manuscript. Prolonged periods of rain can act as an irritant and have your characters at each other’s throats, or can add a sensual backdrop of sound to which your characters can make love. Sunlight can add warmth and an exuberant mood in a scene or can contrast an emotional battle between characters.

Allowing your characters to experience the weather through their senses makes the very air they breathe an adventure in action-reaction.

Out of all the elements of weather, lightning is my favorite. Here's an example from TIMELESS.

          Lightning singed the sky like a molten vein of gold and arrowed down to the stones below. Temporarily blinded by the strobe-like effect, he threw up a defensive hand. The thunder caught him unaware. Startled, he yelped as it crashed around him, vibrating through the bottoms of his feet. 
          Goose-bumps erupted on his forearms and he flung aside the umbrella. Tilting his head back, he screamed into the cloud- darkened sky in a show of defiance. Lightning would not frighten him away. Never. Once again, he was standing in the stones’ presence, absorbing their power, like static electricity racing over his skin. 
          A bluish-white bolt slashed downward, hitting a twenty ton lintel balanced between two posts, sending up a shower of sparks. He jerked, covered his ears against the thunder’s onslaught, and looked about for some cover.
          The boxy shape of a structure stood fifty feet away. He ran through the rain, his feet slipping on the grassy bank, his breath coming in jerky spurts. He leapt inside the wooden storage shed. The heavens opened with a display of angry power as bolt after bolt lashed and whipped at the stones, again and again. The thunder rumbled like deep, terrible music.
          As suddenly as it began, it ended. For a moment, he remained crouched against the door of the shed. Silence stretched first one beat, then another. The frantic drumming of his heart eased, though excitement still thrummed through every nerve ending.


Water can be the cause of death, the answer to the quest, and the playful, sexy lure for adventurous skinny-dipping.

The sight and sound of waves rolling upon a beach strikes an elemental chord in the human psyche. They can inspire loneliness or ignite passion.

Water is sensuous, dangerous, and mysterious which are perfect characteristics for an interesting and versatile setting. From the bottom of the loch in TIMELESS:

          Don’t panic. Don’t panic. The mantra played through Regan’s mind like a prayer as she propelled herself through the turbid water with strong even kicks. Heavy sediment clouded her range of vision and gave the water a greenish cast. It reflected back the feeble glow of the watertight dive light she held clamped in her hand. The grayish scales of a lone fish sparkled as it swam within the small, illumined circle, then darted away along the brown bottom of the loch.

          It looked as though she’d been dropped on a waterlogged moon, desolate and distant. Her face ached from the cold temperature of the water, but her dry suit kept her reasonably protected. She forced herself to stop and take stock of the situation. She’d lost her dive buddy, Henry, in the hazy water, but still had her compass and remained on course. Her heart beat hard against her ribs and she tried to slow her breathing. He’d been right beside her only moments before. Where could he be?

Allowing your characters to experience Setting through their senses switches it from an inanimate stage to an interactive environment. It will cement your characters within their story by bring the time period, culture, and place into sharp focus for them and for you.

The action-reaction you have to your world should be as equally tactile, as sensuous an experience for your characters. It should be as intimate a journey as any other you create for them. By deepening the Point of View in such a way, it enriches your writing and in turn enriches your readers’ experience. And that is what writing is ultimately all about.

Post by Teresa Reasor

Monday, April 9, 2012

Interesting Links: Growing your author platform

Here's great link with a helpful list of book marketing ideas compliments of author, Hallee Bridgeman, who found this.

89 Book Marketing Ideas That Will Change Your Life

More links with good marketing ideas based on your author platform (blog, website, other online presence)

Book Marketing Makeover: Why a Blog Is an Author's Best Marketing Tool

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creating a Goodreads Advertising Campaign

In the Indie world, sometimes the marketing you do is experimental. What does this mean? It means you are trying something and have no clue if it is going to help you or not, but you have take a few risks now and again. Welcome to the business world. Personally, I like the marketing campaigns that don't cost much initially because you can always come back to a higher priced version later.

So I've been conducting Goodreads ad campaigns for about six months and have seen some increase in sales that maybe I could attribute to them. What I have seen for sure is an increase in Goodreads reviews and my work being added to libraries a lot.

However, sometimes you come across someone more knowledgeable in what you're doing who posts about the process and THIS is one of the reasons Indie authors read so many blogs!  So thanks this time Lindsay Buroker for her articles on Goodreads campaigns:

Her Goodreads advertising results and process

How to improve your ebook sales at sites other than Amazon

I like the idea of creating targeted campaigns that have links to the Nook sales pages. I am one of those "publish everywhere" people and like to think I can increase my sales at all places not just Amazon.  I include Amazon links to all my sites, but only recently made a concentrated effort to include all the others equally.

Post by Donna McDonald

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Started: Network with Other Indies

Last weekend I spent a fantastic couple of days with my group of author friends. We browsed through a historic Kentucky town, enjoyed a fantastic lunch hosted by one of our very own, and toured a famous horse-farm. And that was just the first part of day one! Throughout the weekend we laughed, learned, talked, brainstormed, ate, and just generally enjoyed our time together. And you know what I noticed? We are all SO different! We all ordered different things at dinner. Some drank water, some soft drinks, others a glass of wine. Some saved room for desserts, others passed. During our writer workshop, some dressed casually in jeans and flip-flops (me!), others wore slacks, skirts and the like.

The differences are what make us such a unique group of writers. The differences keep our times together interesting. Our differences UNITE us.

Our experiences, preferences, and processes for independent publishing are also quite varied. While we’ve helped each other and supported each other, each author’s journey into Indie Publishing has been unique. That’s one of the things I love about Indie Publishing… it allows for the differences that exist between writers. We are free to make the decisions that work best for each of our individual situations.

For example, several Indie authors I know do their own formatting for e-Book and print versions. Kudos to them! I am envious of their patience and ability! For me, the formatting was something I did not want to tackle on my own. I didn’t feel confident in my ability to do it right the first time, so I opted to use a formatting service. The money I spent having my manuscript professionally formatted was worth every penny! When my book was released, the formatting was correct from the get-go, something I doubt I could’ve accomplished had I chosen to go that route alone.

There are lots of other decisions Indie Authors must consider. Do I purchase my own ISBN numbers or let the retailers I use assign identification numbers for me? Do I hire a cover artist or am I “techie” enough to try that on my own? Do I pay for an objective edit or trust the critique group I’ve already established to do all my editing? Do I price my book according to word count or take advantage of a program that allows for free or discounted versions of my book? I could go on, but you get the picture. These are just a few of the things Indie Authors consider when preparing a book for publication. And for each author, the answer to each question is a unique and personal decision.

But one thing is constant: the authors in our “circle”. The authors here on this blog supported me every step of the way, and continue to do so. There is never a question too stupid or too huge. There is never an idea too preposterous. There is never a moment when they are not there. We are different. We are unique. And we are united.

So, my advice to all who may be considering the idea of Indie Publishing is to find a network of authors with whom you can share your journey. The camaraderie you’ll experience will be invaluable, and as you make each of those decisions mentioned above (and countless others) the authors in your circle will be there to answer your questions, calm your fears, and cheer you on.

Writing is a solitary venture… but it so much more rewarding when we share it with each other!

Post by author, Amy Durham

Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Authoring Paradox: How long should a book be?

The following blog post link is from a site called Book Riot. Here's the link to the post author's bio if you are inclined to learn more about her background and why she is saying what she is saying about book length. Her recommendations are nothing new, but she tells them cleverly. Though she offers the advice she uses in the title, at the same time she admits the length of her blog post at 676 words exceeded her original goal of 500 words. She concedes novels sometimes do the same.

Every Book I Read Needs to be at Least 50 Pages Shorter

More interesting, or at least as interesting as the post, are the 30+ comments and the widely varying viewpoints about book length. We frequently talk about this in our group because some of our writers are writing shorter pieces (short stories, novellas, novelettes) and others are writing lengthier ones of 100-140K words. Many are writing pieces with averages of 55K, 75K, or even 90K words per novel (I'm in this group). Book length is handled humorously because we try not to judge each other's goals.

When you start asking "What is a correct length for a book?" then it gets to be a debate, evidenced by the 30+ comments to the Book Riot blog post. Frankly, I'm not sure there is a such a measurement as a correct or even "ideal" length in the real world. I read articles like the one above hoping that I can gain some illumination on standard thinking and practices. Yet many successful authors in our group routinely produce work in a range of 10k to 100k. Even within our small writer's group, there are successful marketing strategies for all lengths.

In the traditional world, the limits still seem to be based on the cost of printing books of a certain length, hence the restrictions set by agents and publishing houses. Limits seem to flex more in the Indie world which is why I think this topic comes up in blog posts so often. Independent authors often break rules, but first they want to know what the rules are.

Most of us have learned that the key to the best marketing you can do as an author is to keep your reading audience happy with what they are buying from you. For an Indie, it is up to the author to make that happen. Guerrilla marketing tactics that favor sacrificing future sales to make a lot of quick current ones do not seem to be a good thing for any author or publishing house to be doing these days, especially in the age of "free" and "99 cent" books being readily available on the same retail sites. While there are exceptions to every rule, this is just mostly common sense about staying competitive.

Indie authors rely heavily on reader word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat business. You want the reader to love your writing enough to follow you and buy all your future books. Any author's goal should be to build trust relationships with his or her readers.  Good marketing as an Indie author means keeping your attention focused on future sales so that today's success rolls into tomorrow's.

Like many authors, I was trained at the knee of traditional publishing whose lines often rigidly limited romance novel submissions to 55k or 75k.  So it was surprising to me that the lessons I took away from studying book length ended up having almost nothing to do with actual math. Instead, they were just validations of good practices I had heard many times from many writing teachers, and lately from all the really successful Indie authors.

  1. Write a piece so engaging that readers never notice length.  It's a lofty goal, but a worthy one.
  2. Advertise fairly and in a way that reader knows what they are buying. Some in our group publish what is tagged as "a short" or "a bit". Some describe their book as a "novella" if it is under a certain length (varies with understanding). Many sales channels automatically offer word or page count to purchasers, so it is public knowledge before purchasing at those sites. Be cognizant of how your work is being presented to the consumer.
  3. Listen with an open mind if readers take the time to comment about book length. Maybe as authors we think about this issue more than our readers might. And maybe our tendency to do so goes back to the 15 years of collective writing experience within our group and how we crafted our first pieces of serious writing way back when to fit traditional publishing lines with fixed ideas about book length.

Here are some additional sites that offer discussions and advice concerning word counts: