Miles yet to travel

out of focus road
Image courtesy of Unsplash

From the backseat, Kiddo asked, “how many more minutes?” We’d been on the road for the last three hours, so the bigger surprise was the fact that he hadn’t already asked the same question a million times already.

“We still have a ways to go,” I answered, not exactly excited to reveal that we still had another two hours of windshield time ahead of us.

“But how many minutes until the TV can come back on?”

The in-car entertainment system had only been powered off for a second or so, but the boys were clearly missing the distraction. “Eh, a couple of minutes honey. Maybe three. However long it takes for Dad to fill the car up with gas.

“How many seconds is three minutes?” Kiddo asked.

“One hundred eighty.”

Kiddo paused to take in this information. “Ten, twenty, thirty” I heard him begin.

The boy is feeling clever this morning.

“One hundred sixty, one hundred seventy, one hundred eighty. There. One hundred and eighty seconds. Now can we turn the TV back on?”

Sigh. I was going to have to explain to him that time wasn’t moving any faster for the rest of us just because he had figured out a faster way to count to one eighty. Welcome to Relativity 101 Kiddo. Just then the pump clicked, signaling our tank was full. Before long, we were back on the highway with the sounds of Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse playing over the speaker system. Now I am thinking I am the one in need of a lesson in the manipulation of space-time, because it feels very much like I’ve been here before.

And yet, I feel as if I have gone so very far.

My thanks to everyone who helped make last week’s launch so very special either by checking out my book links, sharing my posts, or simply offering your words of encouragement. I am hopeful that the experience I’ve gained will help me complete my next project that much faster, but I also know not to expect the process to be any easier. I very much appreciate your support.

The Fair and Foul Cover Reveal

Patience is not a virtue of mine. I hate waiting. I realize it is a necessary part of the publishing process, but oh, how I dislike doing nothing. So I don’t. I find other ways to stay busy.

Last month, I nervously waited for beta readers to get back to me with their comments. I started outlining follow-up projects and writing a few placeholder scenes, but I didn’t want to go too far away from my current project, just in case another round of major revisions was needed. I didn’t want to lose my sense of the characters or the story’s timing. So instead of jumping fully into my next project, I spent some of that time creating covers for my manuscript.

It may sound like I was procrastinating, but it makes the work feel more real and seeing a cover, even a fake one, helps keep me motivated to push through bouts of writer’s block. The mock-up process also helps me with the project’s final development even if I ultimately don’t use any of my creations. For example, if the title doesn’t look good on a cover, I consider changing it altogether, not just the placement. If the back blurb doesn’t stand out, I refine it. Additionally, my designs help me focus my elevator speech and discuss must have elements with graphic/interior artists.

As useful as my mock-ups are, I usually don’t share my actual graphic designs with anyone except the hubby who has been trained to smile and say, “nice work,” even if he is thinking please don’t quit your day job. Only this time he said, “you might have something.” I tinkered with it some more, and then some more until I realized I agreed with him.

Feeling proud, I showed the cover design to my younger sister over the weekend. “Hmm, it looks nice,” she said with a shrug before returning her attention to something else.

Publishing a book is easy. All you have to do is hit the Publish button on any number of publishing sites like Smashwords, Kindle Direct, CreateSpace, Lulu, etc, but pushing that button yourself is hard, really hard. One of the reasons the traditional publishing route is so appealing in the face of lower royalties and smaller advances is because other people are helping you push that button. You get instant street cred. You get to feel shiny and validated. That is until the first negative review comes in. Then you start questioning your work (and worth) as much as the self-published author, but at least the self-published author has the power to make quick changes if needed. The key is to trust your gut and always remember your audience.

While my sister reads often, she is not what anyone would describe as a book nerd. I trust her to tell me when something I do is terrible, but sometimes her polite indifference is as glowing of an endorsement as I am ever going to get. Therefore, without further ado, I would like to reveal my cover (or at least the title) of my second novel – The Fair & Foul: Project Gene Assist Book One.


Shiver me timbers, another sweet trade

Well fudge ripple ice cream, my first book has sold more copies than I anticipated.

image courtesy of flickr
image courtesy of flickr

Before you start sending me congratulations, I should add that I can’t claim credit for all of those sales. I was googling myself, as I randomly do whenever I want to ruin a perfectly good day. My ratings on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, and various blog posts were all in the top results (exactly what I want), but then I saw something a little lower in the ranking that gave me a pause. An interested reader was trying to find my book (not just any book) in their library and was complaining that their library charged a monthly subscription fee for books.

Oh dear! A frustrated reader (exactly what I do not want). I obviously haven’t done a good enough job advertising where you can currently find a copy in ebook format.

My heart went out to this would-be-reader, but then I read other comments in the chain and my heart went out for a completely different reason. Another ‘helpful’ citizen of the world wide web posted an image of my cover along with a link to a site offering books at a discount, followed by the original commenter thanking the second for the suggestion. “I was able to download four books for less than five dollars!”

Now you might think I would be excited that someone else is helping me to sell my book, but here’s the thing – unless the other three books were fifty cents or less, it would have been hard to purchase my book as well as three others for that price. Not to say that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, it’s just highly unlikely.

I looked at the link again. It seemed I had seen the name before, but where? Then it hit me. Several of the blogs I follow had recently posted a story about a site hosting pirated books being taken down on Facebook. It had the same name. I had been victimized and didn’t even know it (sometimes ignorance is bliss).

I started drafting this post. A short time later I attempted to go back to the forum site to take screen shots, only the link was no longer in the Google search results. It wasn’t in Bing’s or Yahoo’s search results either. Where did it go? (Son of a biscuit eater!)

Blackbeards flag
Avast yee!

Had I merely stumbled across a cached page? (Me binnacle!) Had the site read my cookies and blocked my IP address upon realization as to who I was? (Weigh anchor and back to pirate cove!) Was it possible that the site and its content was taken down exactly at the same moment as I came across it? (Now you are just being a drivelswigger.)

I went to my browser history and scanned the places I had visited. What had been listed as booklibrary was now showing as, a site, by the way, that will now send you a guide on chicken breeds if you click the download button (buyer beware) rather than sending a copy of my book.

If you’ve read down this far I assume you are at least slightly interested in what I have to say. Maybe you’ve already read my book (if so, thank you very much, your support means the world to me – especially on days like today). Maybe you haven’t (where does the time go?) Maybe you’d like to read my book one day but have thus far been put off by the price? While I personally feel the price is market fair, I know that everyone’s financial situation is different and that not everyone wants to pay full market price, especially not on a new author. I understand, but those sales dollars help me finance my next books (editors, cover artists, publicists, and distributors demand to get paid up front – the nerve of some people!)

So let’s make a deal.

Contact me. My details are all there on my About page. Let me know your situation and how you can help me with some grass-roots marketing. Create a pitch video I can use in an IndieGoGo or Kickstarter campaign. Go to your local library and ask them to stock my book (I’ve reached out to Overdrive, they just have to pay for a license). Suggest it for your book club. If you can find a way to help me, I’ll find a way to help you back. Together I am sure we can work out how to get you that free copy without going through the hassle of using sites more interested in stealing your identity than honoring copyright.

Places you can legitimately buy my ebook at the time of this post:

Once again, my thanks to Chris the Story Telling Ape’s blog for not only alerting me to several potential pirated sites as well as providing very detailed instructions as to how you can fight back. I may have joked around a little in this post, but that doesn’t mean I take this event or other threats to my business any less seriously. Nor should you.

How not to advertise

On my way to work the other morning, I was stuck at a traffic light when I noticed a hand-made sign on the other side of the street. There are tons of these signs. Usually they advertise things like “Mattress Set – New! $550!” or “We buy ugly houses!” But the sign that morning was different.

Low cost dental

I would have taken a picture of it if I had been more awake that morning, but the light changed before I could fully process what it was I was seeing.

It was brightly colored paper with mismatched stick on letters and a hand written phone number advertising low-cost dental services.

To be fair, I don’t know anything at all about this company. The practice could have the best dentist in all of the US. He or she might be able to create filings that are the equivalent of the Mona Lisa in the world of dental arts. They may have intentionally decided to not to create a shinier ad as way of keeping their overhead costs low in order to offer patients the greatest possible savings.

Unfortunately for their practice, I, as well as several others who pass by that stop, likely will not be making an appointment any time soon. Why? Because a sign like that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. I’d rather save money by skipping a dental appointment altogether than have my teeth treated by anyone other than a professional.

As I’ve written before, the independent bookstore which has agreed to stock my book has a strict policy against carrying books produced by an Amazon company (i.e. CreateSpace). When I decided to change publishing companies I had to take their policy into consideration. I decided to try out Lulu which is a local, and highly rated, company for my on demand printing. For the most part their service is fairly straight forward. All you have to do is upload your manuscript and cover image, specify a few keywords and your price and Presto! You too can be a published author for the price of a proof copy and shipping.

Only it isn’t quite that simple. Some sort of black magic goes on behind the scenes as their servers manipulate your Word file into a file their printers can use (CreateSpace has a similar process. Smashword’s ‘Meatgrinder’ provides even more joy). You watch the status bar patiently… then not so patiently… Your family shouts from the other room, “are you coming to dinner?” You shout back, “Just a minute.” Ten more pass. You give up because your stomach is now growling and return later only to discover that your right page footer has been indented while your left page footer has not. You curse, make corrections, and hit the submit button again. The print ready interior that eventually spits out on the screen at you now has a random blank page between chapter 6 and 7.

Fifteen tries later, your interior is almost to your satisfaction, except there is an extra period on page 50 and, oh for the love of Pete, is that typo on page 217? Your children have celebrated another round of birthdays while you’ve been at your computer. You start telling yourself, it’s good enough. Your cover at least was done by a professional. No one is going to notice anything wrong with the interior.

Except that they do. The little things matter, especially when you are trying to grow a business.

My older sister visited not too long ago, and I showed her a rejected proof copy. I had rejected the copy because the cover wasn’t trimmed correctly, but that wasn’t what she noticed. Instead the first words out of her mouth were, “what’s up with the font?” I love that my family doesn’t hold back the truth when it matters.

I don’t want potential customers eyeballing my book on shelf to think of me (and my work) as anything less than professional. She forced me to return to my manuscript and start another round of submission roulette. Yay! I can only hope the hard work is just as eye-catching as its opposite.

My top secret 2014 performance review

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to sit down and analyze the performance of staff at the day job in painstaking detail. I look forward to the process as eagerly as they do. Who doesn’t love to see in writing the ways in which their work can improve even if the words are no real surprise? I know I sure do when it’s my turn. That’s totally why I’ve been having a virtual argument debate with my editor’s notes over the last several weeks.

One of the biggest upsides about being an independent author is the ability to be in control of everything (except forcing people to buy your book). I’ve often heard it compared to going into business for one’s self. We are the authorpreneurs! YAY!

So, if this is truly a business and not just a hobby, perhaps it is time to schedule a performance review with my staff.

Please come in Allie.  Would you shut the door and have a seat?

Now, I’ve been looking at your annual report and while you’ve done a great job gaining additional exposure on WordPress when comparing 2013 to 2014, but you haven’t pulled in nearly the numbers as some of your counterparts at other firms. Why do you think that is?

Hmmm…. Likely it is because I am terrible at writing eye-catching titles.

How can you improve this?

Phone a friend? No? Well then maybe I will start trying out some of the hundreds of catchy title formulas out there in 2015 and see how that works out for me.

Well that can’t hurt. Seriously, your titles have been atrocious at times. I mean ‘Is that a fire hydrant or a really odd garden gnome?‘ Really?

Umm… we agree, that wasn’t my best work. In my defense, I had spent on my creativity on content that day. The tank was dry.

What about social media? What are you doing to improve your exposure in that area?

I’m actually advertising my blog less on Twitter, and interacting more. I told myself that for every tweet I send out, I would find at least four by others to favorite, retweet, or reply to.  I’ve made some really enjoyable connections and now I barely pay attention to my follower count, and yet on the occasions I do, I see it continues to grow.

How about Facebook?

Facebook doesn’t always show my updates in feeds, even if a person has liked my page. There is little I can do there except hope that the handful of people who actually see my updates feel like sharing them with their network. Therefore I don’t see myself spending more energy there than I already have been.

Looking over your other marketing efforts, I see that you tried out a number of things early in the year like paid ads, a Goodreads giveaway, and review exchanges, but your efforts dropped off mid year. Are you planning on trying any of these things again this year?

I ran a second Goodreads give away toward the end of the year when An Uncertain Faith was re-released as well as a free promotion of the book. I used paid ads at the beginning of the year and didn’t use paid ads at the end. Interestingly enough I received an almost identical number of entries in the Goodreads give away each time with about as many resulting reviews. So no, I don’t think I will be using paid ads again.

What about the review exchanges?

I learned that review exchanges are not for me. I’d rather my book was reviewed by someone who was interested enough in my blurb or my blog to pick it up rather than someone who is just reviewing it because they feel obligated to.  I worry too much that my book might get lampooned or insincerely praised just because of how I liked theirs. It feels like being in an old Western gun duel. I am however making a point of reviewing the books that I’ve picked out of my own free will more often.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. You know that the best way to be successful in this business is to release more books. Why then is your second project taking so long to release?

I could blame it on a number of things. My day job changed mid-year. I had to make significant changes to the structure, etc. But I boils down to one thing. I forgot how to properly manage my time. I’ve already taken major steps to address this. Now I only have a few chapters left to rewrite before it can be sent out for another round of complaints critique. I’ve also entered a few short story contests. Hopefully as a result I will have something else out there with my name on it in 2015.

Do you have any questions for me?

Will I be getting a raise this year?

You didn’t tell me you dabbled in writing humor.

Is that a no?

Good luck with the contests.

Mock report card
All type and no play make Allie an out of shape girl