Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TUES TIP @Toonopolis Shares His Secrets for Twitter Success

Yep, back with another entry in my Twitter Series. I know, you thought I was done but are we ever done learning how to get better at mastering the tools out there?

Review of What We've Covered So Far
In earlier installments of this series, I covered basic terms and syntax and my strategies for authenticity, went over ways to increase your Twitter equity (or Klout, see more below), some tracking and Twitter management tools for effective community management and then did a bit of Twitterspeak to English translation for you. Now, finally, I’d like to add a few words on automation without diminishing the richness of your Twitter equity that you’ve been working so hard to build up.


Our Special Guest Blogger / Subject Expert
Although I’m still writing this blog entry, I’m not an expert on this topic, not by a long shot, so it was time to call in the Big Guns—a character named Jeremy Rodden. Okay, his characters have stranger names but they’re cartoons in a little city we like to call Toonopolis and that’s his Twitter name, @toonopolis, which makes remembering his book series easy if you follow him on Twitter.

I first ran across Jeremy in an Authonomy forum thread for SF/F writers called the Alliance of Worldbuilders. Then I followed him on Twitter and the rest, as they say, was history. With almost 3000 followers on Twitter, Jeremy has tweeting and building a Twitter community down to an art form—good thing since he deals with cartoons daily!

Monday, August 29, 2011

MARKETING MONDAY - Physical eBooks or How Software Sellers are Changing the Way We Sell Digital Media

In the DRM argument, we're all probably familiar the pirating wars started by Napster and hardlined by the RIAA lawsuits. It was major music labels vs. the artists who want to share their music. The artists argued they didn't mind pirates, believing (rightly IMO) that for every pirated song, there is at least one CD sold (meaning they sell a dozen songs for each one that is stolen).

In the eBook wars, DRM is also a favorite of the Big Publishers (Five, Six, choose your number, it's the multi-national mega-corporations who've merged and acquired nearly every viable small DTB publishing house out there until the gap between themselves and the actual authors is so vast, even Literary Agents sometimes are lost in the sea of corporate BS).

The Indie Author, typically, knows the value of giving it away free. Or at least, for a limited time in order to build readership.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Submissions for Freebie Friday (Sep 2) LaborDay Wkend i #amwriting r u #reading?

Add your book to the comment thread below to get featured on the Friday feature for the holiday weekend! I feature just 3 free reads each week, mostly taken from Smashwords, but any books from any sites are welcome, so long as they can be obtained free on Friday. Because this coming weekend is a long holiday weekend, I'll consider featuring more than 3 books if there is a high demand for inclusion.

The point of the Friday feature is to get the Indie Authors some exposure to a new audience (and to get my readers some free reads they'll enjoy) so I'm trying to pick books that are not only different from what I usually write, but also might be first novels or early works that are struggling to get a foot under them.

Because it's not fair to my readers to offer only novice material, I also try to mix in the occasional "best selling" Indie Author--or at least, Smasher with several extremely successful works, one of which is priced at "free."

Sounds great! How do I join?

If you're a reader, come back Friday and choose the free eBook you want to read. Use the coupon code on Friday's post at checkout to get it at Zero Dollars ($0.00)

If you're an Indie Author,

Friday, August 26, 2011

FREEBIE FRIDAY (Aug26) @Smashwords @Goodreads @FridayReads #freereads #FF

Welcome back to the regular feature where I'll (normally) just share 3 free reads a week with you. This week, I had one entry I'd "held over" from two weeks ago and really want to share with you because I think it's so sweet.

I had a blitz of responses this week. In the first two or three minutes after posting the Submissions thread to the Smashwords FB Page, I got 2 entries while also getting a person who knows me posting "outside the loop" to my Webbiegrrl Writer Facebook fan Page. Because they all showed up at once, or within minutes of each other, I'm going to feature all 4 free reads this week, but from now on, first come, first serve.

Indie Authors, take note that I already have one entry half-signed for the "Labor Day Weekend Holiday Blitz" feature. I'll get the Submissions thread out as early as possible this week (maybe right after I post this! What an idea!) but it's up to you to submit complete information as soon as possible. If you don't make it one week, I can/will hold you over for the next open slot of availability.

If you give me a broken link, no cover image, fail to provide a coupon code or otherwise leave information out before others have provided a complete entry, they are in line ahead of you. I'll add that to the "rules." Geez, I'm getting a lot of rules for this Freebie Friday thang. Onto the actual free reads, eh? I'll get to the Friday Meme with Tracy over at Booked Up at the end of the blog this week so be sure to scroll down and see this week's question.


First up is the short but incredibly sweet little slice of Americana, Double Dog Dare (approx. 2200 words) by Rick Ready.

This debut author asks "What do you do when your best friends dare you to kiss the prettiest girl in school?" and while his answer is fairly simple, even predictable, it's also quite a sweet little vignette. Try this bite-sized slice of Americana today. The book is priced as FREE so you do not need a coupon code to download it.

Next up is a collection of bite-sized stories, Strange Fruit: Prologue (approx. 5503 words) by Raegan Millhollin.

Despite the misleading title, these five connected shorts are complete, though they do set the stage for a full-length novel about fallen angels, malicious demons, and the humans stuck in the middle. I would say Raegan does the world-building in five prologues and plans to tell us the whole story later. You decide how it reads to you. Be sure to leave a review so she knows what you think! Here's how Raegan describes Strange Fruit:

The Fates know the world is more than what it seems; the supernatural: vampires, witches, werewolves, and the things that lurk in the dark, have for centuries woven themselves into the fabric of all that is Normal. But that is changing. Three teenagers, who can see the future, know something is coming, that a power is gathering in their quiet city of Starfield, and not even they can predict what that means.

When Ephraim, a young man who is violently protective of his twin brother, and just a little bit crazy, finds an angel missing a wing collapsed in an alleyway, his act of kindness sets off a chain of events that endangers everything he loves, and may bring about the Apocalypse. This book is priced at FREE so you will not need a coupon code to download it.

Next is my first mystery genre here on Freebie Friday! We have Mystery at the Autumn House Inn (approx. 77813 words) by Shani Bush.

A young woman and her friend take a much needed vacation to the Vermont countryside since her, nor her friend could really remember the last time she actually took a few days off … Much to their dismay the vacation turns up short, once they arrive they end up with a mystery on their hands and possibly a murder. Could her friend's acquaintance be bad to the bone? This book is priced at FREE so you will not need a coupon code to download it.

Lastly, we have a bonus book this week. Just launched off the e-presses, Miss Kitty's short novel, Swallow the Moon (approx. 14201words -- that number cannot be right!) a paranormal romance by K.A. Jordan.

An accountant for a failing company, June longs for true love. In a Wiccan summoning ceremony, she swallows the moon in an effort to find her soul mate. What she gets is Ohio National Guardsman Eric Macmillan, who owns a cursed Suzuki Hayabusa and two spirits: DEA agent Jake the Snake, and the malevolent stripper Cora Cobra.

Back from Afghanistan, divorced and un-employed, Eric is the third owner of a Suzuki Hayabusa. The other owners are dead, just not departed. He's looking for the artist who created 'Cora's' snake-inspired paint job. When Eric arrives at the scene of Jake's last sting, on a one-of-a-kind motorcycle, all Hell breaks loose.

Van Man Go is the world's greatest airbrush artist. He will repaint Eric's Hayabusa, for the usual price. Like Cora Cobra and Jake the Snake, Eric must put his soul up for collateral. Cora and Jake failed to pay their debts, now the devil wants his due.

To get this book free, use coupon code CL66R at checkout.



So before I head off to start tweeting my #FF (Follow Friday tweets), let's see what the meme is for this week's Blog Hop.

Apparently, neither Tracy nor Jen is up early enough to post a Friday blog *haha* but I missed last week's Blog Hop question so let me answer it today. Last week, Jen asked:

“What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?”
(Note: There's one caveat on this question. You aren’t allowed to say the Bible, Torah, Qu'ran, or other Sacred Text.)


Well, that's easy enough! It's my lone Jewish Inspirational / Romantic Comedy, Coming Home (Dicky's Story). I first finished the book at 164,000 words, then edited it down to 139,000 words by cutting out its soul (all the sex and 3 characters) and then put the sex back in, as well as Lefty Larson *grin* and ended with a book at 183,000 words. I can't believe I wrote a book that's nearly 200,000 words long!! That's a LONG book (and still only $3.99).

But Dicky's Story's a hard one to put down and it's a really FUN book with a happy, uplifting ending so it's worth finding time to read 183,000 words just to get to The End and say you read something that long. I hope I never write anything that long again--I've certainly never read any other book that long. Or wait, does the dictionary count? I've read the dictionary as though it's a novel, from cover to cover *LOL*

What's Next...

Well,  in keeping with the trend I started a few weeks ago, tomorrow will be another Saturday Snippet or SciFi Saturday or Saturday SciFi Snippet ^_^ But it's not from Sarah so the alliteration stops. Friday got Chapters 6 and 7 done this past week and I heard there's a new Ch 7a coming down the pipeline, too! Be sure to check in tomorrow for some excerpts. There might be some #SundaySample going on, too (well, before I go to work at the day job, Sunday)

Shabbat Shalom l'kulam!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Submissions for Aug 26 Freebie Friday (i #amwriting r u #reading?)

Add your book to the comment thread here to get featured on the next weekly feature! I'll feature just 3 free reads each week, mostly taken from Smashwords, but any books from any sites are welcome, so long as they can be obtained free on Friday.

The point of this Friday feature is to get the Indie Authors some exposure to a new audience (and to get my readers some free reads they'll enjoy) so I'm trying to pick books that are not only different from what I usually write, but also might be first novels or early works that are struggling to get a foot under them. Because it's not fair to my readers to offer only novice material, I also try to mix in the occasional "best selling" Indie Author--or at least, Smasher with several extremely successful works, one of which is priced at "free."

Sounds great! How do I join?

If you're a reader, come back Friday and choose the free eBook you want to read. Use the coupon code on Friday's post at checkout to get it at Zero Dollars ($0.00)

If you're an Indie Author, you need to have an English-language book that is located on the web somewhere my readers can click through to see a preview and/or download the complete file. The book needs to be priced at "free" or be free for a day on Friday or for any length of time that includes Friday.

Also, your "book" must be a completed work (no WIPs or partials please) and you must be the copyright owner to submit it, but it can be a collection of short stories, poetry or any genre of fiction. I even welcome non-fiction. Just be clear about where your book falls. You must own the copyrights to the work.

Enter your book by entering a comment below using either of the following options. The deadline for submissions is Thurs. Aug 25 @ 1700hrs Eastern Time (USA)

Option A - Smashers

Just give me your Smashwords book page's URL. That's it. I'll get everything I need from there myself.

Option B - Everyone Else  (EE)

In your comment, put:
  1. your book's title and your author/pen name
  2. your book's genre and approximate word count
  3. a URL to the book's page (please test it to be sure it works!)
  4. If your book does not have a cover, please provide a cover image (give me the URL of where the image is located online so I can link to it from my blog post without having to up/download anything). The image must match the book. You must be the copyright owner of the image and the book. Please do not provide me with images you do not have the rights to use.
To add multiple books, please use multple comments, one book +/or link per comment.

Please make sure your book page is "ready for prime time" viewing as that's where I'll direct readers to get your book and you may (or may not) get a lot of traffic that day. Your #1 sales tool is your book cover image (which I'll use "as is") and your #2 sales tool is your book's description (which I reserve the right to edit for readability and space considerations).

How does this get exposure?

Since "strength in numbers" is only an effective marketing tool when we all participate, I would ask that you follow @webbiegrrl on twitter so you'll get the auto-tweet on Friday when Networked Blogs feeds it through (I try to immediately do another tweet with better wording). Please RT either one with the link to the blog post so that everyone mentioned in the Friday feature can benefit from the group's collective marketing.

Personally, I try to post the URL to the blog to as many of the indie author and Kindle reader groups as I have joined on Facebook, including the Smashwords FB Page, and I post in a few other reader groups that I belong to for added reach. If you are a member of Goodreads, for instance, you could help "the collective" by posting the URL in the groups you belong to there--or make it a one-day-only "Goodreads event" using the blog's URL as the "destination."

If you have other marketing ideas for all of us to help each other get the word out, please post a comment to let us all know. Until the day that one appearance here makes a best-seller overnight, I know I can always improve my process! For now, I'm syndicated onto Facebook, Twitter and the Kindleblogs store at Amazon.

Thanks for playing! Now let's give away some books!

TUES TIP Connecting with Your New Market (i #amwriting r u #reading?) @IndieReader @KatJordan1

Reaching new markets. Everyone in every industry is always trying to "reach new markets" or "expand into new markets" or just plain increase sales to, you know, make more money. But is that all it means to "reach new markets"? Making another buck? I think it means more. I think it means redefining what you're selling. For yourself.

What is a market anyway?

For Indie Authors, our markets are the collection of readers who are likely to be interested in reading our book: those readers who probably will buy our book are our target market.

In traditional, DTB publishing, an Author submits a book to a publisher's slush pile and therefore, the publisher becomes the market. Or if you use an Agent as a middleman, then they become your market. In all cases, the market for an Indie Author is always the person ultimately reading what we're writing. In sales terms, of course, it's the person ultimately paying to read what we're writing.

I've Shown You My Market, Let's See Yours

For publishers like MacMillan Group or Harper Collins, in the traditional DTB world, the market is actually not the consumers who browse in a store and buy books. Rather, DTB publishers sell bulk lots of titles on a monthly basis to "Book Buyers" who then sell to "Distributors" who then place the books in specific outlets of a large chain bookstore (such as, Barnes & Noble) for that specific "market." In that case, the "market" is a demographic. The marketing analysts claim thus and such a type of consumer lives in thus and such an area and therefore, is likely to shop at this specific outlet of Barnes & Noble so we should place these specific titles into that store and not these other three, where the "market" won't be interested.

It's pretty confusing, isn't it?

Indies Have it Easy -- er, Harder?

We're lucky, as Indie Authors, that the online bookselling business is muchly streamlined. Our books go from our computers to web sites like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Smashwords and then consumers come to those sites' store fronts and buy our books. Done. The "marketing" and "targetting" is all left in the hands of the web site store front--or is it?

I think the marketing is left to the consumers. I think the consumers, themselves, come to these online bookstores and must somehow, magically figure out how to sift through the store front's offerings to find a book they want to read enough to buy it. Some of the search algorithms are good. I discussed a few weeks ago how you can make your book more "findable" by choosing the title--or subtitle--carefully enough to make it show up in the search results. But note, the consumer still has to type those terms into the search box.

If I Search for You, Will You Search For Me?

How do you figure out which magic words your "target market" or "target reader" will think of to type into the search box so you can put them into your title? Truth? It's a crap shoot. You can't really guess how every customer will think but you should be able to make an educated guess about your target market. If they really are your targets, that is. After all, you wrote a book that has a specific story to tell, a specific feeling with which it tells it, and a specific theme or meta-arc by which you tell it.  Your book is a unique and special snowflake. Like you.

Unfortunately, like you, your book is in a blizzard of unique and special snowflakes. You aren't like everyone else, but to the consumer arriving at the Amazon search box, you look like everyone else. In fact, they can't even see you yet because the snowblind whiteness of the search box is preventing them from connecting to you and your book unless they "magically" type in the special key words.

If your book isn't showing up in search results to be considered by the kinds of customers you earnestly believe would be interested in reading it, then you need to reconsider how you're defining your book. Your current self-imposed definitions are only reaching a limited audience. Your new, undiscovered customers, your new market, is out there waiting to be found. Search for them.

Tag, Your It!

This was the one topic I left off my SEO for books discussion a few weeks ago and I left it off deliberately. It's kind of a big topic. I wanted to lead into the discussion of tags for your books with this whole mindset of who is actually coming up with the tags. It's not Smashwords or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In the DTB world, it's not even MacMillan Group, though they think they own all the words in the world. Nope. It's the consumers. You have to think like your customers, not like yourself.

Do some experiments on Amazon. Sit down at the search box and type in words you think define your book. Type in one--and only ONE--word at a time. See what comes up on the search results instead of your book. Unless your book comes up as the first item on the list. If you tryout a single-word search six different times and still keep getting your own title, hey, you are one lucky Indie Author. Make sure those six single-word searches are tags on your book and you're good to go. Sit back and watch the sales roll in!

Most of us, however, will type a single word, randomly clutched out of thin air, and find...nothing. Not a clue. So use the tools Amazon has given you. The "Customers who bought this also bought..." or "You might also be interested in..." These suggestive selling links that Amazon proposes are not always relevant or complementary but if they're wrong half the time, they're right the other half. Check the tags on the pages of those complementary items. What are reviews on those items saying? Are customers liking one thing in particular about that book? Is it something your book also has? Could you also use a tag to attract attention to that one thing?

By looking at other products that customers who visited your page--but didn't buy your book--did go on to buy, you'll get a clearer understanding of who your target market is, what they're interested in buying, what words they choose when left to their own devices to type into the search box from their own home.

In the olden days, before the internet even existed, Madison Avenue execs called this kind of activity "understanding your market." Nowadays, given we can slap our books up onto a web site and start selling them five minutes later, we call it "reaching new markets." It's not that the market is new, it's that we have yet to discover it. Most of us have gone out and launched our books without doing this market research first. Even if you are part of that small minority that did conduct some market research prior to launching your book, this kind of "investigation into the competition" or "searching for your customers" can help you become more visible to new markets. So I guess there is actually a new market out there, waiting to be discovered.

Related but Separate

I wanted to be sure to include a tip about a site Kat Jordan blogged about earlier this week. She found the IndieReader.com site when she got a tweet (they're on Twitter as @IndieReader) and turns out, I've been following half a dozen people who already followed them and following me back. I probably saw their tweets, too. I just missed it in the deluge so big thanks to Kat for making a whole post (a big enough deal for her that I noticed it) calling it to my attention.

IndieReader.com is a site that specifically features Indie Authors versus DTB or traditional publisher lists of titles. They provide Indie Authors with a platform and they provide readers of Indie titles with some kind of better way to seek out new voices than typing random words into the Amazon search box and hoping for the best. To learn more about how you can get promoted at IndieReader.com, click here.

Click here to read a nice article on how Indie Author, Heather Killough-Walden, got her self-pubbed books onto both the NYT Best Seller List and the USA Today Best Seller List. No small feat--but she makes it sound easy. Given I'm a series writer who loves to create rich characters, and who's already doing much of what she says (though I disabled my Feedblitz Newsletter), her words bode well for my future in the Romantic Suspense marketplace ;-)  Follow @IndieReader on Twitter to get more tips.


What's Next...

This week we shall return to Freebie Friday and have another installment of SciFi Saturday. If you're an Indie Author and want to be featured this Friday, August 26th, look for a new submissions thread notice later today. I'll post it to all the usual places (Smashwords Facebook, Kindle Indie Authors on Facebook, my Twitterstream). You'll have until Thursday, August 25, at 1700 hrs to enter your book for the feature. Cya then!

Monday, August 22, 2011

MON MARKETING Relationships, A Pillar of Good Marketing

I got a copy of Sonia's Internet Marketing for Smart People last week like I do every week and read her article going over 5 relationship-builders to put into your content (click here to read the full article. It's quite good). As I read through her list, ticking off each item off in my mind, I also thought about how my content has been used by some of my readers.

Most of you really enjoy the helpful tips, you take it in and try to see how it applies to your own work. You use the information as it was intended--to help you do what you're already doing but better, more easily and with less effort. I'm delighted each time one of you drops me an email or sends me a message on Facebook or tweets at me or leaves a comment here (a rarity I'm puzzled to say) to say thank you. I'm honestly glad I could help. I really do believe in karma and I know that anytime I can help someone else, it can only bring good things my way.

Then there are some who read the Monday Marketing and Tuesday Tips, find nothing use and promptly forget about them. I appreciate that you read anyway. Worse, though are those who read along and get to the end wondering, What was in there for me? To you, I'm sorry I've wasted your time. The Monday and Tuesday posts are definitely geared toward addressing the needs of the Indie Author or self-published Writer. I hope you'll keep reading, because I hope I'll have something useful to say to you one of these days, but I suggest you focus on the Freebie Fridays and Saturday Surprises if that kind of content is of more interest to you.

The thing is, though, there's yet one more kind of reader I have and I'm not sure how to describe them. They are violating a trust. They're certainly not using the 5 relationship-building tips Sonia discusses in this article. They are rare, few and far between, and I'm glad, but I know I have some of these followers so I guess it is to you I am speaking this week.

You are the people who do two things to build content on your blog or web site, to make money or to build a reputation for yourself which are under-handed and build very negative karma.

One, you actively solicit others to contribute content to your blog or web site. I don't mean in the good way where you invite a guest blogger and let them speak on your platform.

No, no, no.

I mean you ask questions in various forums or on "help" sites and then, once you have answers, you assemble the answers in a blog post or article for your site and claim it as your own, original content.  Worse, you later assemble these allegedly original blog posts in a book and sell that on Amazon as though it's your own, original content. It really isn't but no one buying the book knows that! You never make mention or attribution to anyone at any time, so how would anyone know? It would appear, to all comers, that you are quite brilliant. In fact, your brilliance at the expense of those who actually originated your content spurs your customers to buy more of "your" books. And so the vicious cycle really needn't ever die. Unless or until you run out places to ask questions, steal content from the answers or stop getting internet access.

I think that's why I hate those cheesy "Get rich/high on Google search results/ranked on Amazon's #1 list/whatever else you want, here's how!" books. Not only are they  promoting the idea that anyone can get ahead without even trying (sorry, but although anyone can get ahead it does take work to get there), but they are making money off the suckers who believe them. It's parasitic.

Point two is a little more subtle and a very slippery slope for me to point to accusingly, especially given I've started this blog with the reference to Sonia's newsletter and article. Of course, I am not only attributing her ideas and work by reference to her name; I'm linking directly to it. I'm not hiding that I read her stuff and it makes me stop and think of something to say here, to you, my audience.

This second thing that I see this category of reader doing, however is more subtle. You don't ask questions. You do read other people's blogs and you are inspired by them. You don't actually change anything but you do rearrange the ideas and compose some connecting words. You lift, verbatim quotes--but don't quote anyone. You follow the same structure and make the same arguments, but don't attribute the article where you saw this done for giving a statement, let alone a link. You basically plagiarize and definitely camouflage it enough to pass it off as your own. I think you believe no one notices.

I can't even count how many times, after reading one of Sonia's newsletters, I go off and start Googling for related materials and actually find her articles--which I've just read minutes before--copied and pasted verbatim to someone else's blog or site and with their name on it. I find these articles because I've Googled some phrase Sonia used that caught my eye and got my thoughts going along a certain track. If the thieves hadn't copied her verbatim, they wouldn't have shown up in the search results so easily.

It irks me as much when I see Sonia being ripped off as much as when I see my own words showing up on someone else's blog. It's not as though I'm not going to notice, and I know it's not a personal affront. It's just someone who's either uninspired or too darn lazy to write something themselves stealing someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Sadly, it's a strong trend in the eBook and blogging industry by those who "can't" to be stealing from those who "do." I suppose some would insist that imitation is a great form of flattery and I would have to agree. This isn't imitation. This is theft. Actual copy/pasting and republication (redistribution to the public) under your own name. It's not right.

The only thing I can do, of course, is trust that the negative karma these people suffer will make up for the hurt I feel when I see it happening. I doubt I'll come to terms with that trust. I'm not really a person of faith (so says the grrl who wrote a really uplifting, fun inspirational book that appeals to just about anyone who's questioning their faith).

But really, I'm not. I believe there is a G*d. I don't believe He cares if someone steals my words. I believe He thinks there are more than enough words to go around for everyone. I'm struggling to believe, L*rd! Help me believe!

What's Next...

I promise to have a much more useful Tuesday Tip for you tomorrow. I just had to get this off my chest today. I might even come back later this afternoon and add some more remarks about Sonia's relationship-building thesis. It's quite good. Give it a read if you feel today's post was a little "thin."

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SAT SURPRISE: SciFi Snippet Time! #freereads @authonomy @phoenicianbooks

So I am streamlining my life, as I mentioned last week and going to do a Sci Fi Saturday Snippet (is that enough of an alliteration for a Saturday Surprise?) from now on, while I am editing the first book due for release in the series. I finished Ch 5 edits today, remarkably!

Check out the beginning on the Phoenician Series blog by clicking here or check out the whole chapter (or the whole book up to this point) by logging into Authonomy. You have to register with the Harper Collins site to leave comments, but anyone can read just by clicking here. Enjoy! Jorle is quite the character (in every sense of the word! LOL)

What's Next....

I haven't yet picked the topic for my next Monday Marketing blog or Tuesday Tip for next week, but I've been thinking I should discuss relationships--the karma of building them and not betraying them. Sonia at the Copyblogger has had a few posts on this topic lately and Emyln Chand of Novel Publicity, the famous Facebook Karmic Liking Chain held every Friday has been remarking on it, too. I have my own 2 cents (or three centavos) so I might just have to chime in. Cya Monday! Until then....

Shabbat Shalom v'Shavu'a Tov l'kulam! (or in English, have a great weekend)

Friday, August 19, 2011

FREEBIE FRIDAY Special Feat @DannyGillan #WYLMT @JaneDixonSmith @Smashwords @TCBookedup @Goodreads @fridayreads

This week, instead of featuring 3 authors I don't know, one book each, I've decided to feature one author I do know and his 3 books. Enter Danny Gillan. First here's a bit of how I met Danny and a showcase of his books, then we'll do a little Q & A with Danny so you can hear, in his own words, how he sees himself as an Indie Author.

I first met Danny in a promo thread in the discussions area of the Amazon UK site where Indie Authors from the US asserted they were "Mostly Harmless." There was more chit-chat than promotion, so it was easy to join the conversation and Danny's name caught my eye immediately--for two reasons.

First there was an obvious connection at just seeing the name in print. You see, a Romantic Suspense author I enjoy had just released a book where she'd featured a recurring character, Danny Gillman, who's shown up in more than a dozen books (where he was an arse) and finally, Suz redeemed him. Yes, SEAL fans I'm talking about NYT Best Seller List author, Suzanne Brockmann and the Izzy Zanella / Danny Gillman feud that was finally resolved in Breaking the Rules. Within days of that book's release, whilst still reading the book, I met Danny Gillan for the first time. It was a natural assumption to assume his name had to be a typo, missing the "m" but no.

Danny Gillan's name wasn't a typo, and very quickly I stopped trying call him any of Gillman/Gilligan/Fishboy's nicknames. I soon learned that unlike Izzy's nemesis, this Danny is hilariously snarky once you get him going--even before that! From the second you allow him to speak, he'll make you laugh. Plus, he has a dog name Jake who smiles a lot. Dogs know these things. The dog wouldn't smile if Danny weren't an okay guy.

What I also discovered about Danny as I continued to chit-chat with him on Facebook and various other places where we crossed paths as Indie Authors was that he's thoughtful as well as funny, and he has a unique, original voice as a writer. I can't describe it. Normal adjectives don't fully embrace all of the different sides of Danny Gillan, the Glaswegian (a word I, as an American, had to Google to discover it means he's from Glasgow, Scotland).

When I started reading the bite-sized stories in A Selection of Meats & Cheeses, I started seeing just how many different voices Danny can use. I confess I haven't finished every bite of Meats but it's a collection to be savored slowly, not swallowed whole.

Although Amazon US has Meats currently priced at 99c and Amazon UK has it at a comparable price in GBP, you can get it FREE by clicking here to download it from Smashwords.

ETA: Tracy over at Booked Up actually managed to read and review Meats this week. You can check out her review of the anthology by clicking here. Oh and did I mention that Danny's anthology was #1 on Amazon's List of Top Fiction Anthologies? I forgot, you say? Well, that's why God invented "Edited to Add" notes!


At the time of my first meeting with Danny, he'd just released his second novel, Scratch, which has gotten rave reviews. Click here to read Tracy's review over at Booked Up.

Scratch is also available from the Amazon UK Kindle Store and of course, in non-Kindle formats (Nook, Kobo, etc.) from Smashwords.

As you'll read Danny explain below, he recently got the rights back to his first novel, Will You Love Me Tomorrow (which seems to go by the acronym WYLMT more often than not--and which I continue to want to write as the song lyric, Will you still love me tomorrow).

With a lovely new cover by Jane Dixon-Smith, the artist who did Danny's other cover artwork, WYLMT was released to both the Kindle US and Kindle UK stores this past week. Of course, Danny has non-Kindle formats available as well, at Smashwords.

Now let's learn a bit more about Danny and how he came to write all of these unusual books.

Q1: You seem to do really well with the humorous fiction. What first made you realize it was a forte of yours?
A1: It was an accident, really. When I began writing my first book, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, I had no idea what I was doing, to be honest. I had a basic plot idea but things like style or voice didn’t come into it at that stage – mainly because I didn’t know what they were. I started writing the opening chapter - a suicide scene - and noticed as I was writing that jokes kept appearing on the screen. I figured that if I could squeeze a laugh out of a scene like that then maybe I should start trying to find them deliberately.

Q2: Do you find you come up with the jokes first or the story first? What's your process for conceiving and writing a book?
A2: For both my novels it was definitely story first, jokes later. I think it would be a disaster if I tried to build a story around a preconceived set of comic moments or pre-written jokes. Very few readers are willing to read a novel that doesn’t have a decent story at its heart, no matter how high the gag rate might be. When I do find space for humour it almost always comes from the characters themselves, and their reactions to what’s happening around them. I therefore try to create characters who feel like real human beings. And, luckily, most of the real human beings I know have a pretty decent sense of humour. So, story and characters come first, and hopefully the jokes come out as I write. In fact I’d go so far as to say that none of the ‘running gags’ in any of my books were planned in advance. They all stemmed from almost accidental actions or dialogue that came out during the writing process and struck me as worth pursuing throughout the rest of the story.

Q3: The cover art from both Scratch and the new release looks similar. Who did the artwork?
A3: Both those covers and that for my short story collection, A Selection of Meats and Cheeses, were designed by JD (Jane) Smith. Jane is a hugely talented graphic designer who not only designs fantastic book covers but also edits, publishes and designs Words With JAM, the free e-zine for writers to which I contribute. She also happens to be a friend, which means I get ‘mate’s rates’.

Q4: Did you plan a connection between the two books? They don't sound like books in a series, are they? Or is it just that the cover art connects them?
A4: Although Scratch was published to Kindle first, I actually wrote Will You Love Me Tomorrow a few years earlier. It was traditionally published in 2008, with a different cover to that which Jane designed for the recent re-issue. As you say, the books are not part of a series, though they do both take place in the same ‘world’. I created a pub where the characters in WYLMT could meet up and chat, called The Basement. A couple of years later, when I began Scratch I needed a pub (you can tell I’m from Glasgow, can’t you?) for the main character to work in, and decided to reuse The Basement. Although this is the only real connection between the two novels, I imagine that The Basement will be making at least a cameo in all future books. Regarding the covers, Jane and I felt that creating a basic style for both, and any subsequent novels, would be a good way to help establish a brand. Actually, Jane felt this and I just agreed because she’s a lot smarter than I am.

Q5: Was it easier to write the short stories in Meats & Cheeses or one of your full-length novels? Which length story feels most comfortable for you as a writer?
A5: A Selection of Meats and Cheeses wasn’t written as a single project, but, rather, contains what are hopefully the best of the short stories I’ve written over the last six years or so. I try to write short stories whenever I can as a way to experiment with styles, genres etc. There are several stories in there that are not humorous at all, and would probably be better categorised as crime/thrillers. Equally there is some of my usual stupid nonsense about people making idiots of themselves, and a few that fall somewhere in between. In that respect, I would have to say it felt easier to write as there was never any pressure beyond finishing each individual story.

In saying that, I prefer writing novel-length stories as I find writing the most fun when I can explore the characters’ lives, thoughts and feelings in depth. Plus it gives me the time and space to come up with more misery to throw at them.

Q6: Where do you get your ideas for new books?
A6: Ah, every writer’s least favourite question! The basic answer is that I hit upon a story premise that I think can sustain a novel. With WYLMT it was – what if a depressed, unsuccessful musician becomes famous after he’s committed suicide? Where did that come from? Well, let’s just say that I play the guitar but never got to be a rock star.

With Scratch, it was – what if a wage-slave decided to start his adult life again? Go back to having no job, no debt, no home and no relationships and see what happens (I’m not going to even hint at how much of that is based on anything that’s happened to me).

Short stories are different, in that I general just play around until I find an opening line I like, then keep writing to see where it ends up. None of my shorts had even a basic premise when I started writing, the stories just emerged as I followed that opening line to its conclusion. Of course, that means I have several dozen opening lines clogging up my hard drive that led nowhere at all.

Q7: What's the next book you have planned going to be about? Do you know yet? Will it be another novel or more short stories?
A7: That has yet to be fully decided. I have three or four ideas I think might turn out to be serviceable novels and I’m currently working up outlines for all of them to see which feels right. Since the release of Scratch, though, I’ve had several readers get in touch asking for a sequel. If I can think up enough horrible things to throw at the main character, that might just turn out to be next!

Learn more about Danny Gillan at his Amazon Author Page or follow @DannyGillan on twitter, friend Danny on Facebook, subscribe to his blog or just send him an old-fashioned email to tell him what you thought about his books.


What's Next....

Next time at the Webbiegrrl blog will be another Saturday Surprise. Since I haven't yet figured out whether I'm going to be working on getting the cartoon Dicky some hands or getting Raif's head screwed off just a few more turns (not a typo, his head is about to explode, haven't you guessed that yet?), we'll have to see what kinds of surprises Saturday brings.

Next week, I shall return to the regularly scheduled Freebie Friday featuring 3 new Smashword titles you can read for free. If you're an Indie Author and want in on this, please be sure to check back later for the new submissions thread for the August 26th blog.

Shabbat Shalom l'kulam!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TUES TOOL Building UR eBook Pkg @toonopolis @bookman

I'd like to have a free video editing package to add to this just to round out the package but here are two great resources, tools every Indie Author needs to package and market their eBook. Anyone who has a free video editing tool, please post in the comments and I'll followup in a later post with a fly-through and review.

Fonts

I saw an amazing article on CreateSpace's resources by Joel Friedlander (of The Book Designer blog) on the differences between display fonts (to be used for cover designs) versus text fonts (to be used for the interior pages of your book--whether you're printing or putting it on the screen, these are not the same as display fonts for the cover). Check out Joel's great advice on font selections and how different fonts are right for different purposes by clicking here.

From that article Joel links to a fabulous resource of free fonts called FontSquirrel. Be careful. Not all fonts are created equal. Windows systems require the TrueType Font (TTF) format while Macs can take the OpenType Face (OTF) format. They are sadly, not interchangeable.

Music

Not too much use for music in the eBook business, you say? Hah! Shows what you know about marketing books! If you can make a video trailer, you're going to need some music. It's best not to use any music that even remotely has any copyright issues associated with it. Try to use royalty-free music, just as you would (hopefully) choose to use royalty-free stock photos for your images. Jeremy Rodden (@toonopolis on Twitter) provided a link to a great site of free music clips to the World Builders' Alliance on Authonomy. Thanks again, Jeremy! Click here to visit the Incompetech web site repository of music clips.

When you select music for a book trailer video, my advice is to try to choose something that does not have really amazing lyrics. You want the music to complement your words, not replace them. I'd also advice choosing a piece that has a relatively smooth or "repetitive" sound to it. Even using a 10-second clip and looping it will work if your clip has an even keel to it. Choosing something that has dramatic peaks and lulls in the sound might be pleasing to listen to for you now, but when you try to synch up text and images and video frames, you'll start regretting it. Again, I say, the music should complement not replace (or distract from) your message.

What's Next....

Well, in an ideal world, next Tuesday I'd be talking about how to assemble a trailer video and where to get free software any moron--I mean someone with little or only basic computer skills--can learn to use. You don't need to "master" the software, just learn enough to get the pictures and words and sounds in there the way you want them.

Unfortunately, it's not an ideal world. I own a copy of Adobe Premiere from my prior life of web development but no longer remember how to use it well enough to make myself a trailer. Ironic, no?

I don't know of any free video editing software but there must be some. I sense a twitter question coming! *haha* Hey, if I get an answer, I'll bet I'll next be sensing another Tuesday Tool post!

Until then, our next blog is Friday with a feature on Danny Gillan and then Saturday, another guest appearance by Marjorie "Friday" Baldwin, methinks. She (and when I say "she," I mean "I") hopes to have Ch 4 edits done by Saturday afternoon. If not, then I (and when I say "I" I mean Webbiegrrl *haha* are you confused about who I am yet? Tell me when you figure it out!) will try to do some more Dicky cartooning and post an update of the cover art on that for Saturday's Surprise. See? It really will be a surprise this week.

Have a great Hump Day, everyone! (don't tempt me to start posting Hump Day pictures either because I have a stock of them and I know how to use them!)

TUES TIPS Using SEO 2 Soft-Sell eBooks (Pt 2) @smashwords @authonomy @goodreads @40kbooks

Today's Tuesday Tip is a follow-on to yesterday's Monday Marketing post. These 2-parter posts seem to be a theme lately, eh? Click here to read the first half of the discussion in full. The gist was as follows.

Summary of Part 1

We Indie Authors, unlike traditional publishers of DTBs (Dead Tree Books) have limited resources at our disposal, so when there are tools around which cost nothing but time and effort, we should use them. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of those tools. In fact, we have a half dozen or so sales tools for each our books and should apply SEO thought to each one of them. Here's the list of sales tools every book has, as I see it and in my order of priority:
  1. Cover art
  2. Title
  3. Tag line
  4. Short and/or Long Description (the "blurb" as we call it)
  5. Reader reviews
  6. Free Sample
  7. Magic Price Spot
 I covered the first 4 points yesterday and will discuss the last 3 today.

5. Reader Reviews

This the most misunderstood tool so I'll spend most of today's post discussing it. A lot of Indie Authors debate the usefulness of reader reviews. A lot of Indie Authors debate their opinions about reader reviews. A lot of Indie Authors ask everyone they know to post a review even if they haven't read the book just to get reader reviews because they somehow think this is what you're supposed to do. That's not really what you do.

Reviews can be useful as a means of feedback, encouragement, direct information on what about the way they write is working and what isn't. That's great for a Writer. At least, it's great when the reviews are great. When they're bad, it can really cut a hole into an artist's soul. Writers, like painters and sculptors and dancers and musicians are just artists when you get down to it. We bleed for our art, at least metaphorically....unless we're sharpening pencils and erasers with a pocket knife.

Being a Writer is a little different than being an Author. The word "Author" implies the writing is being sold, money is changing hands, sales are being promoted, tracked and held up as a measurement of the writing's worth. This slight nuance to the word Author versus Writer makes feedback about the writing a little more important to the Author's career success than merely giving them an ego boost (or deflation in the case of a bad review).

So reader reviews can either be for the Writer--in which case asking all your friends to say the book is wonderful can work for you because all you want is the ego stroke--or reviews can be for the Author, as a sales tool. I think if you want to use them as a sales tool, you need to start thinking like a publisher and see your reviews as sent to the Author whether they were or not. Set your artiste aside for a moment, and search out the snippets of reader reviews you can use to help sell your book. If you have reviews in a place like Amazon, where books are sold, the opinions inevitably turn to discussing the price of your book, the worth of it as a purchase. Having words like "price" and "purchase" in a review don't help you.

What you want are reactions to the reading experience. How do you get them? Encourage your readers to post their reviews somewhere else, somewhere where you do NOT sell your books. Like on Goodreads. Why? Because they aren't there to discuss buying or worth, they're going to Goodreads to talk about the book. It's not a reaction to the shopping cart; it'll be a response to reaching "The End" of your book. Hopefully, you actually have the words "The End" in the end of your book, right?

After "The End," because it's an eBook, it will cost you ZERO extra to add a page or two about yourself and your other work, if you have any. Put in links to your Facebook, Twitter, Blog or if you'd like unlimited messages, email ^_^ If you have other books, definitely put in links to where they can be bought but consider excerpting them (3-5 pages each or about 1000-1500 words) as well. You can market yourself however you want. What I did for Dicky's Story was to put in a remark about where I'd prefer to receive reviews. I said please post a comment to the book page on Goodreads and then I linked to it.

I don't market Dicky's Story. I keep saying this. I don't like the cover and haven't gotten off my duff to actually send out press releases or requests to my target, niche audience to review and publicize the book. Once I do, however, my current reader reviews are going to be invaluable. I've gotten a lot of great reviews on Dicky's Story, more to the point, I've gotten a lot of really great quotable quotes on those reviews. My reviews have been essentially split between Goodreads and Smashwords, so I guess my words requesting the comments go on Goodreads have only been 50% effective. Given the reviews are all so glowing, I don't really mind.

What do the reader reviews do for you? Well, now that I've already admitted to my alter-ego, secret identity, Marjorie Baldwin, allow me to illustrate with what "she" is doing. She's currently got no books out but has chapters available as read-only-online at the Harper Collins web site Authonomy. She's gotten comments about the chapters. She's extracted those comments and turned them into press release material. Check out this Publicity Page I did (I mean, Marjorie did) for the upcoming series of books. It looks like there's something going on there, doesn't it? And yet it's just a framework for a book that's not even ready to sell yet. It's all in the presentation.

Yeah, okay, these readers are just people, but hey, they're people, they have opinons. In fact, their opinions matter more than those at Salon Magazine or Publishers Weekly, both of which review paper books that publishers pay them to read and review. I'm not paying anyone anything to say the stuff they do about my writing. They're just being honest--and I'm just being smart about how I quote them.

Let me go back to Dicky's Story and dissect my process for a review on Smashwords. I'll use the review posted by a new friend I met on Soldiers Angels (who turns out, knows my older brother--such a small world!) Julie Gonzalez wrote:
Overall, I really did enjoy it! It took me forever to finish between everything going on here at home and the beginning being a bit of science fiction. At first, it was confusing, but, I figured there must have been an apocalyptic, nuclear warfare disaster that destroyed most of earth. I couldn't visualize their living arrangements. Other than that, it was a beautiful love story and I was so happy with the ending. I was angry that Dicky was taken and the way he was raised. Even though he did grow up in a loving environment.
At first glance, this might seem like an okay review but not glowing enough to use as a sales tool. Well, sure, not "as is" or more to the point, not "in toto." You have to excerpt, and excerpt wisely. This is similar to the sales editing activity of rewording your "description" to make it a "blurb." You're not looking to be "precise"; you're looking to sell your book. It's okay if you don't quote every little letter, so long as you don't make words up. Yes, that's taking things out of context, but if you identify where the entire review can be read, it's not lying. Don't twist things but do selectively quote. Here's what I would quote (have quoted on the Barnes & Noble book page where I have 5 reviews that rotate -- only 1 visible at a time -- at the end of the book's description) for Julie:
Overall, I really did enjoy it! [...] It was a beautiful love story and I was so happy with the ending.

That sounds a bit different than what she wrote, doesn't it? She had reservations about the beginning, but in the "The End" she really enjoyed the book. Does a new, potential reader need to know about her reservations? Sure, maybe they also don't like scifi. Will that help me sell the book or get them to click to the sales page? No. So I don't put that part in. I'm not lying, I'm moving the sale to the next stage--and they'll see as soon as they start reading that the beginning of the book feels "scifi-like." I'll get to that part in the sampling next up.

The other thing to notice is Julie wrote a whole paragraph. I'm only quoting two sentences--the parts that emphasize the most positive points. Here's another example. For quoting Deena Gordon (also on the Smashwords page) I'd go like this:
I enjoyed this from start to finish. [...] The reader can really care what happens to the characters.

If you look at the way I've extracted the most-positive highlights from the longer version, you'll start to see the pattern. It's not that I'm taking two sentences out of each paragraph. That's merely coincidence. It's that I'm gathering words which comprise a complete thought, one which emphasizes the position things each reader said.

Go ahead and click through to the Phoenician Series Publicity Page to see 3 more examples--one-liner examples. You can read the entire paragraph (or more) of commentary each of those 3 readers posted by logging into Authonomy. Oh and while you're there, leave me a comment of your own about that new book! (haha, you thought I wouldn't sales pitch you today. You're so easy!)

6. Free Sample

If you don't already have a free sample offered for your book, set one up. If you're not using Smashwords, I can't give you specific keystroke or window click directions, but every store offers the option of giving readers a free sample or not. Most even let you set the percentage of the book the sample will comprise. In the article on covers that I linked to in yesterday's post, the author talked about cover image files actually eating up a portion of your free sample. For instance, if you offer the first 20% and your image file is 500KB big, you're free sample might only be the first chapter and a half. If you make your cover image file (not the image, the file) smaller before uploading it, say to 80KB, you might suddenly be sampling the first four chapters. I'm not sure I've seen that kind of impact but I've had my JPGs sized down from the start so that's probably why.

Bottom line: don't waste free sample space by having a huge image file. There are ways to make the cover image smaller. Use them. Nuff said.

The sample needs to be killer because you want to hook the reader on the story and make them not want the sample to end. How do you have a killer sample? Have a killer book. This is another reason I haven't been pushing Dicky's Story on the marketing. I don't like my opening chapters for it. Once you get into the book, I feel Dicky's Story is a phenomenal read you won't want to put down, but a reader shouldn't have to "get into it" to get to the good stuff. It should be "good stuff" right from the opening screen. If it isn't, your sample's not going to sell your book.

So this really not "have a great sample" so much as "have a great opening chapter (or three)." That's a carry-over rule from DTB publishing, too, I'd note. The submission process to DTB publishers (and agents) is to send the first 3 chapters and an outline. That's what's called a "partial submission" and it's become the standard these days. If your first 3 chapters aren't killer, edit them until they are.

6. Magic Price Spot

This is another one of those debateable topics. There are as many opinions about price and pricing as there are Indie Authors. Or maybe more! The thing about Indie Publishing eBooks is that you can change your price anytime you want. You are in control of this and to be honest, it's the biggest downside to going with a traditional publisher. They control the price and never get around to paying out royalties. With Indie Publishing and eBook sales, you control the price and your royalties--if you're with Smashwords or using Amazon's KDP platform--are guaranteed going to show up as scheduled. The eBook market is all about the electronic transfers!

Pricing a book is like pricing any other product you might sell in the real world. You want the price to reflect what the product is really worth. Some argue that an Indie Author, especially just starting out, has no worth established and should lowball their prices to build readership. You can go that route, but personally, I'd rather give it away FREE to get readership.

I'm of the camp that believes lowballing your price actually devalues your product's worth. As an Indie Author, your product is you. Your name, the Author name, is what you're selling. In contradiction to this argument, I did participate in the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale this July and I did not make Dicky's Story totally free. I put it on 75% off on Smashwords (or $1 with the promo code on the site) which made it 99c on Amazon. I sold a few on Smashwords but none on Amazon. I've only sold full-price books on Amazon. I never ever link to it on Amazon, have you noticed? People who buy it on Amazon have actually found it all by themselves! It's amazing to me that it has sold at all on Amazon and yet it has.

Because Dicky's Story is such a long book (183,000 words) I wanted the price to be "more than rock bottom" but because I don't like the opening chapters, and because it's my first publication so I am an unknown name, I wanted the price to be "appropriate for a long book that is a good read." It's not a bad book, just a bad opening. I chose $3.99 and am still considering raising it to $4.99, which I just might do when I re-release with the new cover art. I don't believe I have the "name" to ask for more than $4.99 for it no matter what. Even if the opening were edited into greatness.

If one has a shorter book, say 50,000 to 80,000 words, then offering it for sale for 99c makes sense. It's a short book. The average paperback novel, in the 300 page range, is between 100,000 and 140,000 words long. Traditional DTB publishers play around with the fonts to make the pages work out to something they think can be made believeable at a given price. And an average paperback book costs $4.99 to $7.99 without any discounts. My long novel would have to go for $8.99 to $9.99 at least.

In fact, I calculated the costs of producting Dicky's Story as a paperback using Amazon's CreateSpace, but because of the per-page costs they charge an author to print a book, Dicky's Story would actually cost me money everytime it sold a copy!! The point at which printing a book stops being profitable and begins to cost the author money fell around the 150,000 word mark. What a coincidence! NOT.

I'm still not giving up the idea of finding a way to print Dicky's Story on paper but it's clear that when you price an eBook, you have totally different considerations than when you price a paper book. If Dicky's Story were shorter, I'd consider offering it at the $2.99 price which is the bottom of the 70% royalty rate on Amazon's Kindle Store.

And that is the final consideration an Indie Author has to make when setting a price. After length of the book and the "value" of your name at this moment in time, you should consider what kinds of royalties you'll earn based on how much you charge. If you go below $2.99 on Amazon, you only earn 35% royalties. That makes it as unprofitable to sell an eBook as it does for me to print Dicky's Story on paper. If you're not earning 70% at Amazon, and the maximium possible royalties at other sites (I get 80% for sales directly off Smashwords and only 60% from Barnes & Noble, forex), then your pricing needs to be re-examined. Never price yourself out of the profits. Just give the book away. You'll be better off that way. I'm serious, not joking or being melodramatic. Lowballing the price hurts your name more than giving it away free. When you give it away, you can always change your mind and charge for it later, saying it was a limited-time, introductory free offer. If you lowball the price, some readers feel ripped off when you raise it to make a profit. You have to always consider your ongoing relationship with your readers when setting price. Don't try to squeeze them for every cent right up front. Plan on having them come back to buy more--and give them a price they can recommend to their friends and neighbors!

What's Next....

That's it for today's Tuesday Tip and wraps up the question of SEO for Indie Authors. I'll be back a little later today with a few tools to recommend. Yes! My first Tuesday Tools.

There's no submissions thread for this week's Freebie Friday because I'm going to be featuring Indie Author, Danny Gillan, to help launch his latest release, Will You Love Me Tomorrow. The Freebie Friday blog shall return in full swing next week with 3 more freebies for your reading pleasure. Cya then!

Monday, August 15, 2011

MONDAY MARKETING Using SEO to Soft-Sell eBooks @40kbooks @smashwords @authonomy @goodreads

So the idea of using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tricks to help sell ebooks has been a much-requested topic by you, my readers. I don't like discussing SEO--I don't even like to think about SEO--but I am finally going to discuss it. Marginally.

That is, I'm not going to talk about "buying keywords" and all of the other (in my opinion, sleazoid) tricks done by sales and marketing "gurus." They're selling blogs or banner ads or other "monetizing" of web site strategies. I'm just talking about Indie Authors selling books. So we're not turning into marketing gurus here, we're just talking, one Indie Author who hates SEO but must use it, to another (GGG).

Your Tools

You only have a limited number of tools with which to sell your book. I believe the list is as follows, in the order of priority listed below. My list definitely differs from other lists you might see online. I'm positive I have things on it which others don't see as "sales tools" and I'm just as sure that I'm missing something others think is "essential." This is my list of tools. That's all it is.
  1. Cover art
  2. Title
  3. Tag line
  4. Short and/or Long Description (the "blurb" as we call it)
  5. Reader reviews
  6. Free Sample
  7. Magic Price Spot
This list is too long to go over in today's post, so I'll cover the first 4 points today and then address the last 3 in tomorrow's Tuesday Tips post.

1. Cover art

In the last 2 weeks alone, I've read probably a dozen articles about how Indies can sell books or what to do to make your book stand out. At least half have said the cover art is irrelevant or at least unimportant and have focused on other things--to which I say a flat *pfffffft* You are so wrong. At least in the online world, and hey, what d'ya know? The traditional DTB (Dead Tree Book or printed on paper for those of you who don't like to think of the poor little trees giving up their lives for you to hold and caress the pages of your favorite novel) publishers have always focused huge amounts of money, time and effort on the cover artwork. In fact, the "packaging" is one of the most costly expenses a traditional DTB publisher spends on producing a book. They might even design a totally different package for the hardcover release than they did for the paperback.

Covers matter.

I won't go so far as to say a bad cover will kill your book. Case in point: my current cover for Dicky's Story couldn't be much worse and I'm scrambling as fast as I can to create a new one but to be frank, the book has still sold plenty of copies without my doing any marketing beyond this kind of a side mention. I haven't had time and have been so ashamed of the cover, I've deliberately tried not to market the book. It's still sold itself. Repeatedly.

At Smashwords alone, it's seen almost 450 downloads (sadly for my checkbook, only a mere fraction of those have been paying customers, but that's okay. I wouldn't pay for that cover either!) and I've even had my first international sale via Amazon's Kindle UK store. Before this awful artwork propagates to much further, I need to replace it. So how will I decide what to do instead?

I'll ask myself what makes a good cover and how does the artwork affect the SEO of your book?

Cover Art as SEO Seed

Your cover artwork might show up in image search results. That is, if someone is searching for an image even remotely related to your cover art, your book cover might be the answer to their search query. If you have an obscure or overly-generic image, it'll probably be on page 500 but if you have a really unusual image, something really relevant to the theme or topic of your book--and their search parameters--your cover might show up high in the results. In one instant, after one quick "eyeshot" as they call it on Madison Avenue, your book's cover art might just find you a new reader. That is, they might not have been looking for a book to read--until they saw your cover art and clicked through.

So how do you make it a good cover, one that is capable of hooking a web user who wasn't even looking for a book? Design is one of those "I know it when I see it" questions. Very subjective. There are certain rules, however, to graphics design and applying them will help your cover catch more eyeballs scanning pages of search results and random images. I prefer to apply the rules of CRAP.


The CRAP School of Design - Short Course

No, that's not me joking around; it's an acronym for some actual rules of design. I cannot take credit for this concept. Years ago, I read the book Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams and I've never forgotten this lesson--obviously, the mnemonic worked! Williams has released multiple editions of this book since. I highly recommend any of them. The theory is this, if you apply all four rules of CRAP design, your design won't be crap. So far, when I have remembered to be faithful (which is not all the time, or even half the time), this has definitely worked for me. My best designs were definitely CRAP designs.


C is for contrast. Oppose colors, sizes, textures - use contrast as a verb not a setting like "brightness" in the preferences of your image editor. It's something you will do in your creative process as you design your cover image. Look for elements that are just sitting on the screen. If you can delete them, do it. If you love them, make them pop out to the viewer by finding something with which they can be contrasted. Use a color wheel (use opposing colors on the color wheel) or use a texture against a solid, but separate elements, pop one up to a position of more relevance in the Big Picture by contrasting it with the background layout. Don't forget the #1 rule of all design: less is more. It's quite possible to have a lovely, well-contrasted design in black and white.

R is for repetition. Use patterns, themes, related elements in book cover design. If you have a series, always design with typography to tie your books together. If you don't have a series, at least consider using the same font for your name across designs. In fact, even if your books are not in a series, you can create a repeated effect by applying the same stylistic approach.

Some examples of similar stylistic approaches might include using sunrises in different locales, a "four-seasons" shot of one landscape for 4 books, always having a skyline shot or a person doing the same thing, with different people on each cover. You can theme all of your covers to help create a "brand" for yourself (branding for books is a multi-post series for another week!) Check out these reprints of Dashiell Hammett's classic mysteries. Totally unrelated stories -- tied together by the cover art and connected in your mind as being from the same author or at least, having the same potential to please you as any other work from this author.

Not seeing how to make that happen for your own books? Have a look at the Book Cover Archive pages for authors with multiple books (just pick an author you know) and try to figure out what the theme is. It's super obvious in this screenshot of several of  Cormac McCarthy's westerns. You can immediately notice which book covers "don't belong" can't you? This author is exceedingly well-established, has a devoted following, has no need to redesign book covers and yet, the publisher felt it was worth the considerable expense of redesigning and reissuing all of the books with a themed cover design to strengthen the brand. Several of these books were made into movies, blockbuster movies, but these covers were all designed -- redesigned -- in to sell more books. They were not timed with any specific movie release. These are covers as a book selling tool.

Repetition in design imprints on our brains whether we like it or not. Give it a try.

A is for alignment. Make sure there's some kind of vertical and horizontal relationship between elements of your cover design. There should never be more than three alignments, preferably only two, one vertical and one horizontal. Elements which align include not only typography but any "edge" or contrasting items in your design image. If you have an area of darkness and an area of light, the division between them is an area against which to align--or deliberately not align, leading into....

P is for proximity. Clusters of elements in close proximity are grouped by the human eye/brain by reflex. We associate aligned items in close proximity so by simply separating elements or by not aligning them, we make it clear they are not associated. You can use proximity for or against association of elements--but be sure to consider it when placing things in your image layout.

Last word on covers or I'll never get to the rest of the list! The typeface on your cover design won't be "read" by the search engines when someone searches for an image. The image's so-called "headers" will be read so the web browser will know what kind of file it is. A JPG or a GIF has specific data in the beginning of its encrypted and coded data specifying its file type and how to display it (or render it) in the browser window. The headers contain--or can containt--a lot of other data. You can even edit the headers if you have the coding skils and editing tools for it, but you're probably using stock art or creating your own image and unlikely to edit header code. Therefore, the last line of defense you have between your cover image and oblivion is the file name.

Many of us just name our files something that makes sense to us so we can find the file again on our local hard disk. This is nice but search engines little robots (called spiders) will actually find that book cover image by its file name and if the name makes no sense to the spider, it will be ignored or at least, low-ranked as a not relevant result.

Therefore, before you upload your image anywhere, rename it. In fact, you can even experiment with the file name and use a different one at different sites to see how the name does or does not impact your book's visibility on that store's local search capabilities. Bear in mind Amazon does not use the same search techniques as Barnes & Noble nor as Smashwords, Kobo, Diesel, etc. Every online bookstore indexes its books and cover images according to its own, internal system.

You can at least insure your book's cover image has a file name better than "cover.jpg" :-) In the Windows file-naming system you get 32 characters, case-sensitive, and are allowed to use spaces. Don't do it. Use all 32 characters if you must, and do use case if it makes it more readable to you, but understand that the spider won't distinguish upper and lower case--and they will substitute an ASCII code (%20) for the space. Your file name will "read" like crap (and not the good design kind of CRAP) if you put spaces into the name. Just use words without spaces. You can use dashes (-) or underscores (_) but you don't have to waste spaces with those either. Not for the spiders, anyway.


2. Title

I read this really great article last week when @40kbooks tweeted the link and it got me fired up to write about SEO for books at long last. I encourage you to click through and read it yourself. I shan't repeat everything she says. I would note, however, that his list of tools is a little different than mine. In fact, I'd note that book title is not on her list. I'm not sure she realized that she'd omitted it, given she introduces the list saying she wants to talk about titles *oops*

Anyway, Robin Sullivan makes some excellent points, the gist of which is that titles matter. A lot. I agree because, just like with your cover art image's file name, SEO spiders are actually going to read your book's title--or at least a part of it. Spiders  read URLs (web page addresses) and happily, book seller sites (like Amazon) tend to put the book title into the URL. Here's Coming Home (Dicky's Story) on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Home-Dickys-Story-ebook/dp/B004SD2GQQ/


Gee, lookee there, the URL actually includes the "Dicky's Story" part of my title. "But Sarah," you say, "That parenthetical isn't on your cover art, how'd you get it into the URL? Isn't it just the way you refer to your book?" Yes, I say, it is. It is also a deliberate attempt on my part to distinguish my book from the other oh, 20 or 30 books titled "Coming Home" at least 75% of which are also in the Romance genre (or subgenre and I think 50% of those are in the Inspirational subgenre of romance novels!)

Not only did I immediately start referring to my book in casual conversation as "Dicky's Story" back in November, 2010 when I started editing it and officially retitled it, but I made sure to include the parenthetical in the book's title everywhere I listed it. At Amazon, at Smashwords, at Issuu, at Barnes & Noble, even as far back as December of 2008 when, for a very brief period, I had it uploaded at Authonomy as "Dicky's Story." (In fact, Matthew Dick and I had our first words when he saw that title on my book.)

I know that "Dicky's Story" doesn't really sell the idea "Jewish Inspirational Fiction" and only in the world of double entendre does it speak to "romantic comedy" but guess what? It's #2 on the Google search results when you type in "jewish inspirational fiction" and I have to confess, it does slip a bit once you get going as is Dicky's Story in life (sorry, the puns abound in my mind now that I've started)

That is, if you keep looking for "Jewish Romantic Comedy" you'll find "Friends With Benefits" discussions before you find Dicky's Story. I hadn't seen that interview before and have to say, it is too true. Christian romantic comedies do put up external barriers while Jewish romantic comedies internalize the struggle. The reason is pretty obvious: Jewish attitudes towards sex are open while our "passion" in life seems to be to struggle internally--or angst--over life's choices while Christian attitudes towards sex are extremely closed and repressed (by comparison anyway) and struggling is frowned upon as a sign of weakness.

Okay, back from the side trip, Ms. Sullivan's point about titles remains valid. If the title doesn't help you become visible in the searches your readers are most likely to conduct, then the title is not working for you, it's working against you. Make your title work for you by considering the parentheticals and "subtitles" you can use. Ms. Sullivan had some great examples of how changing or adding just one word to a book's title can alter its SEO impact.

You don't change the title on the cover art (or DTB version if you have one). You just put the extra words into the title on the book's data entry page, such as the Dashboard at KDP or the Book Edit page at Smashwords. Most of these sites where you upload your book will allow you to use at least 32 characters for your book's title (it's that file-naming thing again!) so use them!

3. Tagline

If you have one, this can be as useful a selling tool as your title. If you don't have one, it doesn't hurt you. Depending on how short your tagline is, you could even use it as the file name for your cover art image. The tagline is not a subtitle, so don't try to use it in your title entry field. It's more like a 5-10 word "description," which is your next biggest selling tool.

4. The Blurb

The last selling tool I'll discuss today is the short and/or long descriptions, your "blurbs." First of all, these should be written as sales copy, not as "descriptions." These are not supposed to describe the book, nor summarize it. These are supposed to sell the book. In fact, you'll notice, many DTB publishers put things into the marketing blurbs on the back covers of books which don't actually happen in the story--but they sure did catch your eye and make you buy the book, didn't they?

One of the hardest things for Indie Authors to do is "misrepresent" their story in order to sell it. I don't advise you insert any "bait and switch" hooks into your blurbs, but do make sure the copy reads like a sales pitch. Also, don't allow yourself to become so tied to the fine details of your plot that you miss the point of the blurb.

It's like applying for a job. You send out a cover letter and resume and ask for an interview. You don't ask for the job in your cover letter. You ask to be considered in person and allowed to expand on why you are the perfect person for the job.

The cover letter is like your book cover--it catches the reader's eye, it makes them want to go onto the next eye shot and read the blurb.

The resume is like the blurb--it only needs to get you the interview. All your description has to accomplish is getting the book into the reader's hands. That's it. You have other tools (which we'll discuss tomorrow) to close the deal and make them buy the book.

Your blurb needs to be written as sales copy as well. You need to use emotionally-charged adjectives, ask a lot of questions, don't give too many answers and at the very end, you need to "ask for the sale." Literally.  Maybe suggest the reader "download the free sample now to find out what happens next!" as your last sentence.

As if this weren't hard enough--summarizing your book and doing so in sales-pitchy-speak--you also need to seed your word choices with keywords that are likely to be connected in your readers' minds with your book's subject.

Yes, finally, the SEO demon reappears and sticks its ugly head into the middle of your lovely description. You really do have to make sure the words you choose for your blurb not only sell the book (and okay, for your heart and soul, tell the story, too) but they have to be the keywords your target audience is likely to use to search for a book like yours. If you want to be at the top of the list of suggested reading, you need to be a relevant search result. Again, remember that each online retailer uses their own version of a search engine. Just because it might work for Google, does not mean it will work behind the walled-garden that is a bookseller's search results page.

If I were rewriting the blurb for Dicky's Story now (and I will, just as soon as I finish drawing the new cover art) I'd have to be sure the words "Jewish" and "inspirational" and "romantic" showed up more, and preferably in a phrase like "Jewish inspirational fiction so romantic it will sweep you away." The term "swept away" is such a popular romance novel search term, so maybe not.

There's definitely a balance and a juggling act to perform. As popular blogger on "how to" for Indie Publishing, J.A. Konrath, points out, your description can be changed as many times as it takes to get it right. Free of charge.

I'd go one further and point out, that spiders prefer to crawl "fresh" pages. They won't necessarily recrawl your page if your description is updated daily, but they  will begin to lower its indexed position if you fail to update your description at all. In other words, don't bother trying to fake out the system with daily tweaks (SEO sleazoids who try to fake out the system have forced search engine coders to put in trap doors -- and sometimes you get punished for trying to cheat! Coders are a vengeful bunch, we are!) You cannot, however, slap it up there and forget about it. Your description is never "done." The marketing goes on--so must the blurb-writing! If not, your book sales will simply crawl to a natural stop as soon as momentum runs out. Your goal, one would hope, is to at least maintain your sales rate and hopefully, constantly increase it.


What's Next...

Tomorrow, on Tuesday Tips, I'll discuss reviews, sampling and how to find that magic price-spot that'll get you a happy ending--that is, a book sale more often than not. Until then, start thinking about your cover art and title or rewrite your book's description. Have a great Monday, everyone!

NOTE: This week, instead of my regular Freebie Friday, I'll be running a special guest feature: Danny Gillan, author of Scratch, will be making a feature appearance. Be sure to come back then to learn more about Danny and hear him discuss his new release, Will You Love Me Tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SAT SURPRISE: Guest Feature Marjorie "Friday" Baldwin #SciFi - i #amwriting r u #reading?

So I cannot keep up the dual writing careers in secret anymore. I am burned the *bleep* out.

Finally.

The good news is, though, I'm making marvelous progress on my scifi edits and rewrites. Actually, I'm pretty much rewriting from scratch and deleting what was there wholesale, just using it for a basis of the rewrites but I'm getting the new voice(s) consistent across chapter by just writing from scratch. You know I can write 10,000 words a day if I'm given the time, right?

But I can't do that and snippet two Romantic Suspense novels and blog here 4 days a week and maintain two twitter accounts and two Facebook Pages. It has all, finally, caught up with me. I had to choose. So I chose to write.

Surprise! ^_^ Yeah, not much of a surprise.

So, Marjorie "Friday" Baldwin had an amazingly productive day! Wow, she got so high, MY head is spinning (LOL) You can read her chapters over on Authonomy where she's been uploading snippets for a few weeks now. Click here to read the chapters online.  You cannot download them, sorry.

You can read without registering but you have to register to "back" the book and/or to leave comments. That's a rule Harper Collins (who run the site) made up. Not me (and by me I mean "Friday")

Please do leave comments. You only need an email address to register, not a whole lot of information. Just tick the box to only get messages from your friends and then no one can spam you. Send a friend request to Friday 2 with some kind of mention on your profile of being a Webbiegrrl fan and I'll -- I mean she -- will accept your friend request within a day.

Marjorie--or Friday to her friends--has been logging into Authonomy nearly everyday. It's pretty exciting to check on the book's progress. The snippets started out at a ranking of something like 4950 and are now up to 1822. That's just because 5 people put the "book" (the snippets are called a "book" at Authonomy) on their shelf and left it there. The longer a book is on a shelf, the more "weight" the shelf carries so those 5 people have moved the book up the ranks by what, 3000 points?! Wow.

If you want to join in the fun, and don't mind registering for Authonomy, you too can "back" the book and leave it on your shelf so its weight will increase daily and help the book to rise through the ranks. It's moving at a rate of about 100 places a day right now.

Just a warning. Shelving books draws spam like bees to honey. Be sure to tick the box (on your profile home page) about messages from friends only or you'll get spammed as soon as anyone sees a new user who has a book on their shelf. It's pretty awful, but there are a few good forums and the Authonomy system for uploading, reading and commenting on books is great (from the Author's perspective anyway).

If you enjoy the writing style, please do leave a comment on Authonomy and I (and this time, by "I" I mean me, not Friday) wouldn't mind hearing from you here as well! You can find Friday posting on Twitter @phoenicianbooks and on Facebook at the Phoenician Series Page. She also wrote a really kewel non-fiction article as a guest blog post for Ben Wallace Books. Check it out at the Phoenician Series Blog.

Yeah, I've been just a wee bit busy lately, living a double..triple, quadruple? life!! Help!

I'll be back on Monday with a new Marketing blog...come hell or high water and since we're expecting a storm front to move in, it could go either way! Cya!