Saturday, June 30, 2012

Something new...

I enjoy designing covers. The act of creating a new cover is a gift to myself...generally when I'm almost finished with a new book.

  Recently I started re-assessing all my covers, and decided regretfully that one should be replaced. I say regretfully, because it's the first one I did, and it was fairly involved. The helicopters were flying the other way in the image I purchased, and I had to cut some out. I then had to figure out how to extend the cover vertically by using bands of colour at the top and bottom. That was biting off quite a bit for someone who had never used the program before.
But I write romance, and although visually interesting, this cover didn't exactly shout romance.

  The new cover will go live on Amazon in the next 24 hours. There's a scene like this in the book, which makes it evocative for me, and I hope for you, the reader. Let me know if you think I did the right thing. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Writing

Are you tired of how-to books that share insider secrets about writing the next best-seller? Me too.
On Writing is a different kind of book. It’s by Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King. I know this book well, as in the early stages of my writing career I made it a point to read it every time I got a rejection. I still read it when I need inspiration, or a laugh.
   Yes, a laugh. Stephen King is a funny guy. But more importantly, he talks about the writing process, entertaining us hugely along the way. He doesn’t tell us how to write, but shares with us his background, which explains a lot when you consider where he is today.
  I have a favorite passage in the book, where he talks about putting your manuscript away after you finish the first draft.
“How long you let your book rest–sort of like bread dough between kneading–is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks. During this time your manuscript will be safely shut away in a desk drawer, aging and (one hopes) mellowing. Your thoughts will turn to it frequently, and you’ll likely be tempted a dozen times or more to take it out, if only to re-read some passage that seems particularly fine in your memory, something you’d like to go back to so you can re-experience what a really excellent writer you are.”
  Not only funny, but true. I also like the passage about his wife being his beta reader, but I think you should read that for yourself.
  If you want a fresh take on writing, get this book. It’s been out there for a while and it gets better every time I read it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nora Ephron Died Today

  I didn’t know Nora Ephron, but I wish I had. She had the ability to laugh at herself, and I liked that. She was also one of only a few modern writers able to say in words precisely what we were all thinking, and yet I suspect that she offended almost no-one.
  We all have our favorite Nora Ephron movies, our favorite Nora Ephron quotes. The pain of her early death will always be with her family but my hope for them is that in time they can look back on her best lines and laugh with the rest of us.
  In the meantime, thank you Nora for sharing your humour, your neuroses, and especially your writing. You will be missed.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” - Nora Ephron

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Boxers or Briefs?

Got your attention, didn’t I?
I was thinking ahead to my next book, but then I’m always doing that. I usually know what the female character is going to be like; I find them much easier. This next book is no exception.
   But I don’t feel that I ‘know’ the male romantic interest. He’s eluding me. I know his age, and where he works, but I’m having a difficult time cozying up to him.
  Some authors create detailed descriptions of their characters. They know family history, where they went to school, what type of food they like, favourite sports team ... literally everything. Some authors interview their characters; some even know what’s in their wallet.
   I admire that type of preparation, and I’ve tried parts of it a couple of times. But somewhere in the process I recalled that I literally fell in love with someone the first time I saw him. The first time our eyes met. Corny huh? But true. I knew nothing about him at that point, other than the fact that he had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I think it would be safe to say that the air sizzled between us when we met. Other things sizzled too, but that was much later.
   Question to self: Is it absolutely necessary to know everything about the ‘hero’ before I start on my next project? Maybe I’ll cut myself some slack on this one and get to know him the way I did with delightful discovery at a time.
   I’m looking forward to it.

Mona Ingram

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Paying It Forward Part Two

This is part two of what I've learned about Independent Publishing (so far).

Formatting is not as difficult as some people would have you believe. At this stage of the process, your head is swirling with new information and it might seem daunting, but it isn’t. If you absolutely can’t wrap your head around it, or choose to do something else with your time, you can pay someone to format it for you. But you should at least know which pitfalls to avoid so that formatting can proceed smoothly.
   Smashwords has an excellent formatting manual. Even if you don’t use them as your distributor, you would be well served to print it out. Those of us with simple ‘text’ books won’t need a lot of the content, but Smashwords owner Mark Coker has some shortcuts and How To explanations about using Word that are extremely helpful. Don’t be daunted by the size of the manual; pick out what you need.
  Amazon’s instructions are simple as well. They appear to have been written by someone who knows we don’t all speak computerese. Very refreshing. It’s a rapidly evolving business however, so check every once in a while to see if they’ve changed their requirements.
  Here are the main things I do with respect to formatting:
  Before I start typing my manuscript, I define my font, and paragraph settings. If you need help I recommend that you print out the relevant pages on Amazon or Smashwords.
  Please don’t try to Justify your text. There are too many instances where it looks terrible, such as when you’ve used a long word, or a hyphenated word, creating a long word. Justified text is also especially troublesome for people who like to read in larger point sizes.
   I also define the way I want my Chapter Headings to look. To do this I choose either Heading 1 or Heading 2 on those white boxes in Styles. Right Click, and choose Modify. Name your heading (I call it Chapter original),  and then do the formatting.  Everybody is different. I choose Times Roman Bold Italic, 16 Pt, Centered, Color Black, and then I fiddle with the two little boxes under the color box to determine space above the Chapter Heading and the space below it.  When you like the way yours looks, click OK. When it comes time to use it, just highlight the words (Chapter One) and click on the white box that you’ve called Chapter Head. Eh voila, your chapter heads will be consistent.
  The Smashwords manual also recommends that you define Centered, by using the little angled arrow underneath Change Styles. Frankly, I haven’t found this to be necessary, but you could check it out in their manual. They’re the experts.
  I believe that one of these days in the not too distant future, Amazon will require TOC (Table of Content) in all books. It’s just a hunch I have. As at this writing it’s still not mandatory but I think I should learn soon. Amazon’s formatting section offers links to a website showing how to set up TOC.
  I also keep a document file as a reminder of the way I want my title page to look. Name of book, by, and my name in appropriate sizes and spacing. I also have the standard disclaimer, which I copied from somewhere. Choose one that sounds right for you.
  In that same file I also keep the words I use after the book. Links to my other books, my blog, my website, my Author Central Page...all that good stuff. That way I don’t forget anything. This is also a good spot for an excerpt from one of your other books. Just remember to update your file when you add books, or other scintillating information about yourself.
  Before you get into formatting, read the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing pages. There is a list of what they cover on the left-hand side. Looks daunting, but it really isn’t, because they are well written. Spend some time studying them. You’ll be glad you did.
  Amazon accepts a variety of formats. I save as Web Page, Filtered, then use the Mobi Pocket Creator (free program) to convert it for publishing. Amazon does not require this, but when you use the Mobi Pocket you can preview for yourself how it looks and I believe that it uploads faster to Amazon. The first time I did the Mobi Pocket thing, it took me a while to figure out that my book (prc format) was now in a folder called My Publications. That is where you will go when you upload it to Amazon – My Publications, and click on the little book icon. The instructions are on the screen as you proceed. They are quick and simple. Really!

Cover Art
Your cover art is critical. Without a good cover, it’s unlikely that anyone will click on your book, let alone buy it.  My theory is that when it comes to cover art, less is more.  Remember, it’s going to be reduced to thumbnail size. Details will disappear. Don’t try to send a subtle message with your cover. I suppose you could do that, but you won’t sell any books. Don’t use a font that’s difficult to read. I guess that just about covers the “don’t”s.
  Some authors absolutely know what they want on their covers. They’ve studied the other books out there, seen which ones are at the top of the popularity lists, and they have the skills (and the graphics programs) to create their own covers. Even then, they sometimes make mistakes. I certainly have, and I have a graphics background.
  I think my best advice would be not to mislead the customer. I designed a cover once with an embracing nude couple. No jiggly bits showing, but it was obvious that they were nude. There was a scene like that in the book. The book didn’t sell as well as I thought it should, and when I changed the cover to a serene vineyard vista, it started to sell well. Potential readers had thought it was erotica.
  Chick lit books often have cartoonish covers. Books with more sensuality have embracing couples. Sweet romances have...well...sweet covers.  Having said that, there are no hard and fast rules. But be prepared to change your cover if it doesn’t work...even if you’ve had it designed by a professional. The pros are only as good as the input you give them. There are dozens and dozens available online, and they all show their work, so if you don’t want to do your own cover, choose one you can afford. You can expect to pay from $30 to $300 and far beyond that. Ask around and get a reference, and don’t wait until your manuscript is finished.
   By the way, if you find that you need to change your cover, you would be well advised to change your Product Description to indicate that it’s a new cover. Why have customers think that you’re trying to fool them with a new cover? Because that is what they’ll think. Then they’ll get a refund, plus complain to Amazon. Who needs that?

Your Blurb
How long did it take you to write your book? Don’t tell me, I might get jealous, but I’m assuming it took anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 years. You spent a lot of time and effort on it, so give it the respect it deserves and write a good blurb.
  Your blurb is right up there beside your cover in the importance stakes. You don’t want to misrepresent the story, but you also don’t want to tell the entire story in the blurb. You want to pique the reader’s interest so that he’ll “Look Inside” or download a sample. If possible, keep your sentences short and crisp. Ask a question designed to involve him in the story. Polish it and polish it again. The blurb is your lure, and you catch more fish if it’s a tasty one.

It’s an excellent idea to apply for, and assign an ISBN to your work. You can be doing the necessary paperwork for this before you’ve finished your book. Include the ISBN info when you download to Amazon, and your book will show up in Goodreads. That’s a good thing.

Uploading Your Book
You will have set up an account for yourself, which allows you to go to your Bookshelf.
   Uploading a book is exciting, and relatively painless. Before you start, I would recommend that you check out the first page in the “Add new title” section. You don’t want to be making these decisions on the spot.
   Before you upload your book you will have decided whether or not you are going to enroll your book in KDP Select. This is your personal choice.
   The main section you want to study is Categories. Open Fiction and then the sub-categories and explore them.  If, after a couple of months you think you may have made a mistake, you can always go back and change the categories.
   Do give some advance thought to the keywords (tags). You are permitted seven. They will make your book searchable, and will show up on the book’s sales page. Once your book shows up, many authors recommend adding more tags on your book page until you have max’d out the tagging section with fifteen tags. This prevents other people from coming along and adding tags that don’t make sense.
   With respect to uploading in general, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing has excellent instructions.  Study them. I can’t add any insight beyond what they tell you.
    On the second page you will indicate rights and pricing. This you will already have decided. Check the little box at the bottom of the page and complete. You can follow your book’s progress as it goes through Review and Publishing, to Live. Congratulations.

How to price your books? Here again, ask ten authors and you’ll get ten different responses. I personally think it has everything to do with competition. This is a business; something a lot of us tend to forget. It also has to do with pride in one’s work. I dislike the idea of 99 cent books unless they’re only a few pages long. I would also like to charge more for my novels and perhaps one day that will come to pass. It’s an evolving business.
   The sweet spot currently seems to be $2.99, however many independent authors do very well at $3.99, $4.99 and higher. How much is a latte at your favourite beanery? I rest my case.
   What will you do with all those short stories you’ve been writing? You could combine them as an anthology. If they’re already written, it doesn’t take much to try.

This is a huge topic. It’s also hugely important.
   Do you need to promote your book? Yes. How much, is up to you. This is a business, remember?
    I have a website. I have an Author Page on Amazon. I recently started this blog (it’s fun and I like it), I have an author page on Facebook, I have a Twitter account, and I have an author page on Goodreads. Sound like a lot? It is...probably too much, now that I list them all.
   There are literally hundreds of self-help books telling you how and where to promote your self-published books. A whole industry has grown up around this phenomenon. There is also a plethora (did I really use that word?) of information on-line. Try that first; people want to share their experience.
   I can only say that if I had to give up one thing, it would be Twitter. I love Twitter, but I’m not sure how many actual readers I’m reaching. Secondly I might give up Goodreads. This is a massive and very important site, but frankly I find it difficult to navigate. If you do create a page on Goodreads, take the time to read their section on Author Promotions first. You can set up a special page for yourself as an author.
  Does facebook annoy me? Yes, but I wouldn’t want to give it up. I visit sites relating to romance readers and romance authors. I enjoy hearing what people are reading. It’s a great way to connect with readers. Not always one-on-one, but I listen to what they're saying.
   I also like my website and my blog. Why? Because I want readers to know who I am, as apart from the person who wrote the book they just read.
   The Author Central feature on Amazon is, simply, good business as well. Why would you not list your books, talk about them, post reviews? It’s a no-brainer. Do it.
   Keep in mind that if you choose five separate sites to promote yourself, that’s five separate sites you have to re-visit every time you add a book, or change information on one. I try to do those things after my creativity has dried up for the day.

Free Book Giveaways as Promotion
Many authors give away one of their books as a means to get their name ‘out there’. It works, but you need more than one book of course. Sorry if that’s obvious, but I had to say it. Then there are the free promotional days offered by Amazon as part of the KDP Select program. I read a fascinating article on Squidoo recently on how to manage your free Amazon campaign. Read it for yourself here. I saved it for reference and future consideration.

Paid Advertising
I’ve tried paid advertising. Twice for free book giveaways, and twice to promote a new book. My results were mixed, but it was an experiment. I will try paid advertising again. The ‘best’ sites are sometimes booked up a year in advance. Ouch!

Time Management
Closely related to promotion, because promotion can eat into your time. Ideally, you should set aside a specific amount of time each day for promotion, reading and answering e-mails, etc. If you don’t, you will either drown in it, or you won’t get any new writing done. Remember, I said ideally. The reality will vary.

Lastly, Let’s Talk About Reviews
It’s all in the numbers. The more readers you get, the more reviews you’re likely to get.
   Let’s face it, you will get some nasty reviews. Some authors say you shouldn’t read reviews; they will only upset you. I disagree.
   What do I do after I read a harsh review? After I have a hissy fit, I calm down and read it again. Can I learn anything from it? Hard as this is to admit, the answer is generally yes. A reader will often point out something that my editor and I missed completely.  I don’t rush right out to change it, but the next chance I get, I fix it. Simply re-upload the new version right over the old one on your Bookshelf page.
   There are some reviews that are off the wall. You can generally spot these right away, and readers will recognize them too. But read them; they won’t hurt you. Then to go several best-selling authors' books and read the 1- and 2-star reviews. See? You’re not alone.
   Whatever you do, do not respond to bad reviews. Bite your tongue on that clever reply and go walk around the block. Vacuum the kids’ bedroom, but don’t reply. You will regret it, and it could come back to bite you. Don’t do it.

I Need To Say This Again
A flowery, uplifting ending would be great, but you’ll have to get that from someone else.
   If you are considering writing, formatting, uploading your first book to Amazon or other platform, please ensure that it is your very best work. You need honest, experienced people to tell you if your book is any good, and to point out your errors. Listen to them, and fix what’s wrong in your book. Then upload it and hopefully it will fly.
I wish you all the best.

Mona Ingram

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Paying It Forward

Paying It Forward:
What I’ve Learned About Independent E-Publishing (So Far)

  It’s one year since I put my first book up on, and it seems right that I should share what I’ve learned. Why? Because I had help and encouragement from other authors, and now it’s my turn to pay it forward.
  Writers are the most generous group of people I’ve run across in my professional career. Where else will you find people in the same line of work who willingly offer their time and expertise to help others succeed?
  A lot has been written about Independent Publishing since Amazon set up their KDP platform. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, and when you step into that arena, you truly are independent.

Why do you want to be independently published?
  Ask a group of authors to give ten reasons why they “went indie” and you’ll get a wide variety of responses. But most agree on several things.
Hurry up and wait. In the ‘old days’, if you went by the rules (as set out by the publishers), you sent your manuscript to only one publisher at a time. It wasn’t unusual to wait a year, eighteen months, or even two years for a response – even from a publisher with whom you’d worked before. If they rejected your manuscript, often for reasons unspecified, you had to start all over again with your next choice of publisher.
  Then there are publishers’ guidelines. Necessary. I understand that. Publishers have developed their markets, and want to serve them. But writing a predetermined number of words, and including a specified level of sensuality (I write romance), even tailoring the actions and dialogue of the character to meet said guidelines tends to take the creativity out of the process.
  Maybe you want to go indie so you can get rich. Come on, don’t tell me you’re not interested in money. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a book and the truth is, some publishers, both traditional and e-publishers, don’t pay very well. To make things worse, publishers are now expecting you to promote your own books. Some authors complain that they’re doing more work for the same, or less money. What’s up with that?
  Speaking of money, we’ve all heard about wildly successful authors who have self-published in e-format. I salute them. Would I want to be one? Sure! But that’s not likely, and you shouldn’t expect to become one of them either. Having said that, write every book like it’s going to be the next big thing...because it just might be.

Still With Me? Okay Then, Where Do You Start?
I’m not going to tell you how to write. You already know that, right? Right? If not, then you should learn. Take a creative writing class, or if they’re not available in your area, read a lot of ‘How-To’ books.
  I know a romance author who was educated, who read a lot, and who had a lot of good story ideas. She wrote her first book and sent it in. She waited for a response, envisioning the editors gathered around a conference table, salivating over her amazing story, debating about how much of an advance they should offer. In those days you got a letter back. Not a form letter, either. A real letter with a few words about the manuscript. When she got her first rejection letter she pouted for a day or so and then got back to work. The next one would sell, she knew it!
  It took five years for me to figure out that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I’d better learn. A few years after that, I sold my first two books to the same publisher at the same time.
  Before you start writing, learn about formatting. It can save you a lot of hassle later. I learned a lot from the Smashwords formatting manual, which I will mention again below.

Know Your Genre
I ‘know’ some authors on various writing boards who write more than one genre. I admire them for that, but I don’t think I could do it.
  When it comes to romance for example, certain things are expected, even from an independent author. Yes, you can stretch the parameters, but you’d better give the reader a HEA ending! Happily Ever After.
  Study best-selling authors and see what works in their stories. Read everything you can on the craft of writing, and then write your best story.
  You’ve finished your book and you’re eager to get it ‘out there’. Not so fast.
  Ideally, if you follow the advice of Stephen King in his excellent book On Writing you will put the manuscript aside for six weeks. When you come back to it, you’ll see it through fresh eyes. You’ll edit and polish and proclaim that it’s ready for publication.
  Not just yet. Now is the time to send it to your Beta Reader. Choose someone who will tell you the truth. If you have doubts about any aspect of the book, point that out and ask them for their comments. Don’t waste your Beta Reader’s time if all you’re looking for is validation. Ask for a fair and honest critique. I see people on message boards who ask for opinions on their work and when another author takes the time to read what they’ve written and send comments back, the author argues against every point made. They don’t want to hear that their book could use some more work; they want to be told how wonderful it is. Don’t be one of those people.
  At this stage, some authors send their books to an editor. That has to be your choice and it’s a difficult one. You have to balance the cost of an editor who in almost all cases will improve your book against putting out a not-so-great book and harming your reputation.  Lack of funds might be the determining factor, but in any case, put out the very best book you can afford.

Speaking of Money, How Much Can You Expect to Make?
I don’t have the answer to this one. Go to the Community page in the Kindle Direct Publishing section of the Amazon website. Click on Voice of the Author/Publisher. There are some extremely helpful authors here. They’re supportive of each other, and talk often turns to how much they’re making. Don’t expect authors here to quote you dollars and cents on their latest sales, but you’ll get a good idea of the range, and it’s wide.
  I read an article recently (I wish I’d kept a link) which stated that a high percentage of independently published authors earn less than $500 per year. I have no idea if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Where Will You Sell Your Book?
Let’s start with Amazon. At the present time, they have the largest share of the market so it makes sense to start with them.
  You can publish with Amazon in two ways. Firstly, through KDP. Secondly, and this is also through KDP, you can choose to enrol your book in KDP Select. When you choose Select, you agree to sell your book exclusively through Amazon for a period of 90 days. If you choose not to extend to a second 90-day period, it’s a simple click of the mouse. Otherwise, your book will automatically be re-enrolled. The rules are straightforward and are spelled out on their site.
  Why choose KDP Select? What’s in it for you? When you are enrolled in Select, Amazon Prime members can “Borrow” one book a month. If you’re lucky, it will be yours. The Prime fund can be a nice source of additional income for those with popular books.
  Also with Select you can make each book Free for a maximum period of five days in each 90-day period. You can do five separate days, break it up to 2 days now and 3 days later, or run all five days at once. It’s up to you, and setting it up is simple.
  You’ll find authors who love the free program and those who hate it. Those who love it say that it helps their future sales. Those who hate it say that with so many free books out there, Amazon is making it difficult for them to sell their titles.
  I’m a Libra, and I can see both sides of the argument. You’ll have to choose for yourself.
  Then there’s Smashwords. This company will act as a clearinghouse for your books, taking care of putting them up on B&N, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, etc. See their website for a complete list of vendors. They don’t distribute to Amazon. They take a small fee.
  You can also upload your own books to Barnes & Noble, and other vendors. I’ve never tried to upload directly to iBooks, but I read on some sites that you have to upload from an Apple computer. You can check that out for yourself. Many writers upload directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and let Smashwords handle the rest. Keep in mind however that when you want to make changes to your cover or your blurb or the price, you’ll have to go to each vendor, not to mention changing it everywhere else it’s listed.
  One last thing about e-tailers. Try to keep up to date on the business aspect of things. Maybe find an e-zine that covers this segment of the market. When it comes to trends in e-publishing, there’s no such thing as too much information. You don’t want to be the last one on the bus...there might not be any seats left.

Keeping Track of Sales
Both Amazon and Smashwords offer online charts where you can check your sales. It’s not real-time, but very close. I always purchase my own work when it goes ‘live’ because it looks different on my Kindle, and I’ve noticed that the sale takes an hour or two to show up on my charts.

Do You Need More Than One Book to Start?
Ideally, yes. More books equal more opportunity for cross-promotion.
   Let’s say you enrol your book in KDP Select because you want to offer it for free. If you have a lot of free downloads, which in the romance category means 20,000 and up, then two things happen. Your book will be positioned a little higher on the Amazon browsing pages. More visibility equals more sales. The extra sales will keep your book visible for a while but this higher position doesn’t last for long.
   The second thing is that 20,000 people will eventually read your book and if you have other books, they might choose to buy those as well. So yes, more than one book is ideal. I’ve read that somewhere between 8-10 and up will give you a good start. I think most of us don’t have that many good books sitting around, but put up as many as you can. As I’m writing this at 1:00pm PST on Wednesday there are 485,599 books for sale on Amazon under Fiction. 80,897 are Romance, and of those, 26,270 are Contemporary Romance.  That’s a lot of competition.
   By the way, if you're on a message board asking questions, or just interacting, use the correct terminology. Free downloads are just that...books you've given away for free. Sales are money. 

Instant Gratification? Not Likely
When I started a year ago, I read a lot of blogs and articles from successful independent authors. Every one told me the same thing: be patient. It takes time. Assuming you have a good product, are willing to promote yourself, and have a good number of titles, you will find an audience and your sales will grow. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

In my next blog I will cover what I’ve learned about Formatting, Uploading, Covers, Blurbs, Promotion, Nasty Reviews and a lot of other stuff.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Social Media Taking Over Your Life?

    I was surfing through the channels the other day and came across an entertainment program where the host was talking about some celebrity or other. What they said stopped me cold in my tracks. The 'news' was that the celebrity’s Social Media Standing had slipped by a few points. Social Media Standing? Really?
    Is ‘Social Media’ taking over our world? My family, friends and fellow writers use various platforms to connect in ways that weren’t possible ten years ago, and that’s good. On the other hand, large companies run television ads asking consumers to “Like” their Facebook page. I remember a time when companies advertised to us, not the other way around. Nowadays, they have us going to their website to Like them so they can send their advertising into our homes. It’s our choice, but it still rankles.
    And then there are those who fall in between. Let’s consider social media and the writer, because after all, that’s what I am. Before we writers dip our toe in that big murky social media pond out there, we generally look for guidance on how to go about it.
    Today there are literally hundreds of books aimed at the independent writer; advice on how to set up your web page, how often you should blog, how to build up a Twitter following and how to create a book trailer and put it up on YouTube.
    I read my share of books before I got started. E-books mainly. They all start the same; they have a lengthy introduction telling you what they’re going to teach you. Wouldn’t want to give away any secrets in the free sample.
    If we independent authors were to follow even half of the advice that’s out there, we’d spend eighty percent of our time doing promotion, leaving very little time or energy for writing. Not to mention that we’d be so wrung out after trying to figure it all out, our creative juices would be completely dried up. We’d start to gear our writing toward what sells; never a good idea. By the time you write a story à la current ‘big thing’, interest has moved on to something else. It’s that old saying: Every time I figure out where it’s at, somebody moves it. There you go.
    Today I was searching on Google for fossils combined with a specific area in British Columbia, where my next book takes place. Google is one of my most valuable time-savers. I love it, but today a set of 12 sponsored links popped up on the page, all nicely boxed for my consideration. Every single one related to self-publishing, Writing, Book Design, etc. Considering that I was searching for fossils, that's spooky.
    And then there's Twitter. For most writers, Twitter is a bunch of authors promoting their books to other authors. It’s a lot of clever sayings, quotes, thoughts that amuse us for a moment, but keep us from writing. Again, our choice, but you get the picture. Recently I’ve started to ‘Unfollow’ people who tweet too much. How many times can you read about their amazing book for sale, or their saccharine, peppy, inspirational, funny comments? Yech.
    Twitter is, however, good for a smile if you follow people like Bill Maher, Seth McFarlane, Steve Martin, Stephen Fry, Albert Brooks. These guys are known throughout the twitterverse for their clever comments. Their tweets are few, succinct and precious. Thanks, guys. We could all take a lesson.
    I didn’t mean to turn this into a rant against Social Media. It's here to stay and I will continue to use it. But hearing that comment on television was like a splash of fresh, cool water in my face. Was I getting derailed by all of this stuff? Almost, but not quite.
  In the meantime I'm going to get my little wheels firmly back on the rails and do what I love to do...and that’s write.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amazon buys Avalon

  WOW! That’s all I could think when I saw the news that Avalon Books in New York has been bought by Amazon. I have five books with Avalon, a respected small publisher who produced books for the library market in the US.
   I have to confess, it’s been hard to concentrate on writing for the last twenty four hours or so, although I did manage to get about 1,700 words done on my current book. The message boards were lit up with information and speculation about the sale. As you would imagine, for every ten of my fellow Avalon Authors, there are ten different opinions.
   Now that the dust has settled a bit, I believe that it can only be a good thing. Amazon didn’t get where they are by sitting on their thumbs.  I suspect that while their current authors (including me) are scrambling to keep up with changes in the publishing industry, Amazon is busy plotting ten steps ahead of us. I put up my first self-published book on Amazon almost exactly a year ago, and I’ve learned more in that year than I could have imagined. It’s been a fun ride and just when I thought it might be slowing down it looks like I’ll have to hang on. More changes are around the corner.
   My author friend Sandra Carey Cody posted a picture of a Meadowlark today. I think I’ll take a deep breath and do what’s really important...go bird-watching.