aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Slippery Slope

If you don’t believe, who will?

This was one of my self-proclaimed moments of brilliance this week, come up with during a Twitter conversation about my last blog post, “Call to Action”.  The discussion revolved around inviting readers (not the same as querying bloggers) to review your books.  The consensus was that if this is done in the right way, there’s nothing wrong with a line or two at the end of your work asking for reader engagement.  Most authors who subscribe to the practice do so handily – we are, after all, hopefully pretty good with words.

But like everything in life, there’s the example that shouts of desperation, a plea for validation, a “please like my work, please?”  Is it false humility or a true lack of confidence?  If it’s the former, then that’s even worse than saying you’re the best thing since sliced bread.  If it’s the latter, it probably shouldn’t have been published in the first place.

It’s a slippery slope that one who chooses to play this game has to walk.   There’s a fine line between having confidence in your talent and just being cocky.  But in my opinion, to become successful, you have to believe in yourself first.  In order to put your work out there for sale to the general public, you need to be proud of it.  If you don’t think you have any talent, why in the world would anyone else?

I’m one of the most self-deprecating people on the planet.  I crack jokes at my own expense.  I’ve blogged here about my seven fans (I may actually have less – see, I just can’t stop).  There are passages of my own published novels that I now cringe when I read.  When people comment that they’ve learned a lot from a blog post that I’ve written, I inwardly question if they’ve gotten me confused with someone else.   But the fact of the matter is, I believe in what I do and I think I have every right to be here, doing what I am.

Before I started self-publishing, I realized something in my working life:  no matter how good of a job I did, I was replaceable.  There was always going to be someone better than me, just as I was always going to be better than someone else.  I’ve quit jobs before and the companies didn’t crumble or shutter their doors when I left.  Well, not immediately anyway.

I’ve tried to carry that same philosophy over to my writing.  Sure, there are authors out there who have more talent in their pinky finger than I do in my whole head.  There are also those people who I could write circles around.  But one thing’s different here:  I am not replaceable.

I could give my plot outline – if I had one – and my character descriptions to ten different authors and we’d end up with ten different books.  None of them would be close to how I would write it.

Think about it.  I’ll wait.

Isn’t that what we’re all striving for as authors?  To have that distinctive style, that unique voice that readers can’t get anywhere else?  Isn’t that part of building your brand?

Most of us don’t want to be carbon copies of the author next to us on the virtual bookshelf.  In order to accomplish that, we have to be comfortable enough with who we are to let our true selves shine through.  It’s scary and liberating all at the same time.

In the end, I’m doing this for myself and having the time of my life.  If you want to join me on my ride, come right along.  If you don’t, that’s okay, too.  I know I’m quirky and I won’t appeal to everyone.

Not changing who I am doesn’t make me cocky.  But it may just make this venture profitable.

 

 

 

Call to Action

I need your help.

As I’ve been alluding to, the completion of my third novel is imminent.  Being my anal-retentive self, there’s not much to do in the way of formatting as I choose to write my rough drafts according to Smashwords and Amazon publishing standards.  I’ve got a release date set (and have already changed my Twitter bio to reflect this).

The thing that is tripping me up is the back matter of the book.  You know, the part that’s found after the epilogue that includes the acknowledgements and, in my case, the preview of the next book.  This is what I’ll work on next, when the beta readers are reading and I’m getting the whole thing edited and such.  This is the part that I never show to anyone else until it goes live.

Sure, I’ll put in my contact info on Twitter, the link to my website and talk about my love of sea salt and vinegar potato chips and Vanilla Coke.  And I’ll have a kickass preview from Book Four that will hopefully make fans count down the months until it’s released.  Those things are all givens.  What I’m wavering on is whether or not to ask readers to review what they’ve just read.

In Book One, I did.  In Book Two, I didn’t.  In my humble experience, it didn’t make a lick of difference.  Book One currently has more reviews, but I don’t think it has anything to do with what I put in the back of it.  It has to do with it being the one that went on a blog tour and a review tour.  It’s also been out longer (duh).

Why didn’t I put this verbiage in the back of Book Two?  Because prior to its publication I read a comment somewhere by somebody who made a semi-valid point:  you don’t see this call to action in traditionally published books.  By asking for reviews, you’re announcing yourself as a self-pubbed author.  Not that there’s anything to be ashamed of as being such;  I certainly don’t hide the fact that I am.  But in the same vein, if I want my work to be judged on its own merit and held to the same standards as a traditionally pubbed piece, I don’t want to make a rookie mistake and look like I’m desperate.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and in these selections, I’ve noticed that the majority of self-pubbed authors do ask for reviews at the end of their books.   Some websites also suggest that this is good practice.  I’m on the fence.

Part of me thinks that I should throw that little line in to the back matter of Book Three.  Another part of me says no.  The realist in me wonders how many people actually read past the epilogue.  After all, I just had a (positive) review posted on Book One that took me to task for leaving questions unanswered and hoping that I’d continue the story.  I’m betting that they didn’t catch the preview of Book Two at the end, or the fact that the whole novel was released almost six months ago.  I really hope they find it.

So what are your feelings on the whole call to action thing?  Are you more likely to review a book if the author invites you to do so?  Does it make the author look like they’re begging for compliments?  Are we all so used to this ebook/Amazon/Goodreads thing (read, review, repeat) that these lines are just wasted space?

Your comments just may solve my dilemma.

Designed – Cover Reveal and Teaser

I’m so excited to finally share with you the cover art and book blurb for my next release in The Intoxicated Books – Designed.  I’ve lovingly coined this one “The Blake and Chris Book” because, well, that’s what it is.  As I’ve said here before, I think this cover could possibly be my favorite of the whole series.

What do you think?

book3

Blake Snyder is an expert at bringing visions to life.  Owner of a successful interior design business, she prides herself on creating things that are picture perfect.  If only her talent extended to her personal life.

Chris Taylor is her brother’s best friend, but more importantly, her ex.  After a messy breakup years ago, they’ve been careful to avoid each other.

But out of sight isn’t necessarily out of mind.  Chris holds a special place for her in his heart – and a never presented engagement ring.  Blake can’t stop thinking about him – despite her frequent attempts to replace him.

When a series of events in the present lead Blake to confront the truth in her past, she knows that it’s time to come clean about what really drove them apart.  What she reveals is something that brings him to his knees yet again.

Can Chris forgive her for a decade of secrets and omissions?  Will their love for one another be strong enough to withstand the repercussions of a decision made long before?  Or will the bombshell spell their ultimate demise?

Release date details (and preorder links) will be coming soon.  In the meantime, stay tuned here for some interesting bonus content and sneak peaks.

Can’t wait to read the whole thing?  I’m always looking for a few good beta readers – knowledge of the rest of the series is good to have but not required.  If you’re interested, tweet at me or contact me here and we’ll chat!

 

Survival of the Fittest

The month of March saw the closure of two ebook retailers:  Sony and Diesel.  While Sony’s ebook store appears to be gone for good – with Kobo picking up the pieces - the departure of Diesel from the market could be temporary.  Verbiage from Diesel’s website suggests that they may be back someday, in some way, shape or form.

While it’s never good when a retailer shutters its (real or virtual) doors, depending on how you view the ebook market, the impact of these companies fading away is either significant or a nonevent.  If you’ve read my blog long enough, you likely know which camp I’m in.  I’ll get on my soapbox again and reiterate my opinion that I’d rather have my work at more places rather than fewer.  I’m of the belief that readers should have a choice on where they purchase their books, whether or not I personally frequent those outlets.

Did I have my books available at Sony and Diesel?  Yes, I did.  Did I ever see a dime from either place?  No, I didn’t.  But they were there just the same.  Being available in either online store didn’t cost me anything, so what did it hurt?  Not a thing.

I’m sure that my sales experience is typical of most self-pubbed authors who sell in multiple places.  My books are featured in several stores, but I’ve only ever sold in four:  Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and iTunes.

Let’s break it down:

1.  Amazon – the place where I’ve sold (meaning people have forked over money for) the most copies.  Why?  Because, duh, they’re Amazon.

2.  Smashwords – the place where I have the most (legal) downloads.  This is because I direct all of my traffic there when they do their sitewide promotions.  If I’m going to offer my book for free, it will be there.  If I’m going to give away review copies, it will be there.  By default, they win because their coupon codes are user friendly.  I’ve also gotten some paid sales through their website.

3 & 4.  B&N and iTunes – these two are neck and neck for me.  I seem to have a few devoted fans at both places.  Amazon still sells better than the two of these combined, but I’m hoping that because I can utilize B&N and iTunes preorders that the tides will turn as I get more work in my catalogue.  There are plenty of people who claim that these two regularly bring in more sales for them than Amazon.  Trust me, I wouldn’t complain if one day I joined their ranks.

Again, even though I’m only selling in four places, it doesn’t cost me any additional time or money to be available at Kobo, Flipkart, Oyster, Scribd, et al.  The potential of making an eventual sale at any of these places is enough of a reason for me to offer them there.  Besides, I haven’t sold a darn thing at Amazon Japan, but my books are still there, too.  Why discriminate?

(A funny thing happened here:  I typically write my posts on Sunday or Monday night, then post on Thursdays.  This post was written on March 31st.  On April 1st, I opened up my Sales and Payment report from Smashwords and realized that I’d made my first two sales at Kobo ever, within 3 days of each other.  Since it was one copy of each book, I’d fathom that it was the same customer.  It only took about a year to get any activity there – just goes to show you that sometimes you just have to be patient.  And yet again, if my books weren’t available there, would that reader have gotten them elsewhere?  Or just passed them up completely?)

Some authors are debating on whether we should be dividing our own purchases between all of the retailers where we’re offered.  It’s a altruistic thought.  But seriously, the tiny amount that I personally spend on ebooks in comparison to the market as a whole will not help a smaller retailer stay afloat.  Even if this is multiplied by thousands of indie authors doing the same, our numbers are still dwarfed by the general reading public.

This is truly survival of the fittest.  Those companies which adopt the most cutting edge, seamless purchasing interfaces will stand victorious.  Not surprisingly, these are also the companies that have the most capital to throw at the venture.  Readers have a choice and they will choose the path of least resistance more often than not.

I’ll admit it:  I do, too.  Everything that I’ve purchased has been off of Amazon.  Why?  Because I have a Kindle, not a Nook.  Because their store is so easy to use.  In a matter of seconds, my book is downloaded to both my Kindle and my iPhone.  It’s all saved on the cloud so when I switch devices, I don’t have to worry about losing my content.  It’s also the company that introduced me to ebooks in general, so it’s what I’m comfortable with.

I’ve dabbled with Smashwords as well.  I download my own novels from their site in order to proof them on my devices while they’re in the preorder stage.  I won’t lie - I get them for free as the author.  But side-loading them to the Kindle is a pain that I don’t want to hassle with for other books.

My husband has purchased books from the iBookstore.  I’ve downloaded samples, but not purchased full copies.  It seems about as easy as downloading from Amazon.  I’d wager that B&N is similar, though I don’t know for sure.

So what can we take away from these happenings?  Consumers obviously have their favorite places to buy ebooks, just like they have their favorite grocery stores and gas stations.  We’re creatures of habit.  And retailers need to make certain that they have a website that encourages the public to pick them over all of the other fish in the sea.

We’ve just seen what happens when certain storefronts aren’t the go-to destination for purchases.

 

Resisting Progress

My oldest daughter lost her Kindle about a month ago.  This isn’t the first time that a Kindle has gone missing in our household; the eight year old lost hers for a spell a while back as well.  Only hers turned up again and this one, well – it hasn’t.

The ten year old’s story is that she took it to bed one night.  When she woke up, it had mysteriously disappeared.  We looked under pillows, blankets and the bed itself to no avail.  She claims that someone entered her room in the wee hours of the morning and stole it.  I think she was implying that I did it, but this brought to my mind images of the Tooth Fairy sitting on a cloud somewhere, reading erotica.

So why would she immediately point a youthful finger in my direction as the prime suspect?  Because my beloved Kindle is a first generation, while hers and her sister’s are the second generation.  Therefore, mine was a piece of crap and I was obviously looking for an upgrade.  My husband was removed from the lineup because he’s a devoted iPad user.

I shrugged this off, figuring that her technology would turn up somewhere, at some time when we least expected it.  Then I could say “I told you so” when we found it behind the couch, in the playroom, or under her seat in the van.

Time passed and the Kindle didn’t emerge.  Younger sister grew increasingly frustrated when her older sister would force her into sharing.  They began to sleep in the same room so that they could watch You Tube videos together before bed.  Patience was wearing thin.  Something had to be done.

My husband and I knew we’d have to replace the Kindle.  It wasn’t fair to our youngest daughter to subject her to a life of sharing her electronics with her sister.  She shouldn’t be punished for our oldest’s lack of responsibility.  But at the same time, we knew we didn’t want to reward the oldest by running out to the store and buying her a brand new one.  So the decision was made:  we’d buy a new something for me and give her the Kindle that started it all.

I was a bit apprehensive at this.  My Kindle and I have had some pretty good moments together.  When we purchased the two second generation Kindles as Christmas presents over a year ago, I kind of expected to be jealous that my kids were getting the new and improved version (though not the HD ones).  Instead, I found I preferred my humble upbringings to their new-fangled devices – mainly because their home screens always opened up to ads, whereas mine did not.

Begrudgingly, though, I knew this was the right path to take.  So I resigned myself to opting for the state-of-the-art model of something.  Of course, my husband tried to convince me to switch to the iPad.  I told him no; I have my Kindle for reading and occasionally Googling things and my laptop for everything else.  Besides, I usually take my Kindle with me in my purse.  He suggested an iPad mini.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a lover of my own iThings, but that just seemed too expensive for something where all I wanted to do on it was read.

I settled on the Kindle Fire HDX.  You know, the one that’s being advertised to death right now.  It was on sale, and as such was about a hundred bucks cheaper than the iPad mini.  It appears to do almost exactly the same thing.  But most importantly, I can read on it.

I brought it home and hesitantly took it out of the box.  We stared at each other for a moment.  I had to read the little card that came with it to find where the power button was, because it just wasn’t the same.  That obstacle defeated, I fretted about transferring all of my books over from my old one.  Since they were all stored on the cloud, when I registered the new device, they all appeared just like magic.  Yay!

Another pressing matter:  I worried about removing all of my books from the old device, because there are some things that a ten year old just shouldn’t see.  I breathed a sigh of relief upon deregistering the old one and placing it under her account to find that the majority of content had been deleted from it.  All that remained were some of the apps I’d downloaded and my own two novels, because I’d actually emailed those to my Kindle from Smashwords, not gotten them off of Amazon.  To her dismay, I left those on there and handed it over.

Then I proceeded to use my new toy.  Like I do most weekends, I read for hours.  I finished one book I’d already started and was immediately prompted to leave a review that was simultaneously posted to both Amazon and Goodreads.  I might have squealed in delight.  The new Kindle had won me over.  I also read another novel in its entirety, though since it was an ARC, I had to post my review on Goodreads the old fashioned way.

This morning, my daughter proudly announced that she’d figured out how to delete the novels that I had written, too.  Because after all, it’s not like I’m famous or anything and she will never, ever, read them.

Hey, they can’t all be fans.

 

Pulling Back

I’m almost there.  Twenty thousand words, give or take, and I’ll be done with the rough draft of my third book.  I’ve written that amount of content before in the span of two weeks.  Realistically, I know it will take me much longer than that.

Like with my two previous books, I’ve hit the skids as the final countdown looms near.  Okay, my pulling back was far more pronounced with the first one.  I literally stopped writing altogether, driving my husband nuts in the process.  He couldn’t fathom why I would take a break just when I was on the threshold of doing something I’d always dreamed about.  With the second book, it wasn’t so much of a work stoppage as it was sitting with a fully formatted version in my back pocket, waiting for the right time to hit the upload button.

Why do I do this?  Many reasons.  Especially in the case of my first time out, fear played a big role.  Admittedly, I was scared.  Not so much of my work being judged by others or not selling, but of logistically not being able to do it on my own.  And trust me, there were a few moments where I sat with my Word document, screaming at my computer when it wouldn’t publish.  Failure appeared imminent, and then all of a sudden the light bulb went off and all was well.  With number two, I pretty much had formatting down pat – it was the timing of the release date and trying to figure out how to market it that bogged me down.

So here I sit, mere scenes away from finishing.  To be honest with you, the majority of that remaining storyline is already written in my head.  The cover art to book three has been downloaded to my computer, but I’ve yet to reveal it to anyone other than two people at work.  Not because I don’t like it; I think it may very well be my favorite to date.   I’ve moved on, plotting out book four.

Yet there’s this nagging feeling of defeat gnawing away at me.  Not with what I’ve written, even though I know right now that there are things that I will need to go back and fix.  There’s a few obvious things that I need to clarify, plus the random item that will stick out when I read through it with a pair of fresh eyes.

So what’s my issue this go around?  The length of time that it took me to get here.

In my perfect world, several months ago, I told myself that I wanted it to go live in May.  That would be seven months out from my last release – what I thought was a respectable amount of time.  It was, after all, approximately the same length of time between the release of book one and two.  People whip out full length novels in six months; why couldn’t I?  After all, I published two books in calendar year 2013, though book one was written entirely in 2012.

I kind of neglected the fact that it took me until the end of August last year to finish the rough draft of book two.  It didn’t go live until the end of October.  If you’re keeping up with me, that means it took about eight full months to write.  In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought I could shave nearly three months off of the total process.  It’s not like I became independently wealthy and was able to quit my full time job and devote my life to these characters in my head.

I did what I can’t stand other people doing:  I created an unrealistic goal.  Naming it as such now doesn’t take the sting off, either.  As March rolls to a close, I realize that I’m not going to make it and I feel that guilt of letting the seven people that care about my books down.  But no one will be more disappointed than me.

Rather than rush to completion, I know it’s best to stay the course and do things the right way, even if it means falling short of my expectations for the release date.  Trust me, I do enough unorthodox things with my writing as it is (things that I will never, ever admit to, so don’t ask).  To me, this isn’t the paper that I wrote – and aced - in college on the day it was due.  This is the world that I’ve created and the people that I’ve chosen to inhabit it, and they deserve better than that.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s due in part to a tendency to hate when things are over.

 

 

Twenty Percent

I have a feeling that I’m in the minority here, but I’ll make my confession anyway.  I don’t look at the free sample portion of an ebook before I commit to buying it.  I never have and likely never will.  There, I’ve said it and now I feel better.

But many people do.  I’ve had to learn to think outside the box (or in this case would it be inside the box?) and write for those individuals.  The ones that are to the “let’s date but not get married” stage of a reading relationship.

I never realized how big this group was until I self-published through Smashwords and could track the number of sample downloads of my books.  I wish all other retailers would be as transparent, but alas, they aren’t.  A lot of people download free samples.  A decidedly much smaller portion of those downloads convert into sales.  Granted, many people probably pick up sample downloads like they do free books and get around to reading them eventually, if they’re not buried in the dusty regions of their e-reader and forgotten.  So those sample downloads today could very well be sales months down the road.  Or perhaps they are sales, but just at a different retailer.  Who knows.

Whatever the case, most people who like to spout advice about these things tell you that you need to create a captivating opening to your novel.  I agree on some levels, but not on others.  Obviously, you want the free portion of your book – as well as the entire product –  to be professional.  This means that formatting needs to be impeccable and your editing has to be first rate.  There’s nothing like a typo on the very first page to totally discourage a buyer from clicking that “Buy” button.  You want to put your best foot forward, as well as give the reader a clear feeling for your tone and writing style.

But as far as content and action, I’m torn.

Since retailers’ versions vary slightly depending on copyright notices and such, all samples are not created equal.   Case in point, my first book.  I have my books set to share the maximum percentage allowed as a free sample at all retailers.  At Amazon, this means my free sample ends before you truly meet the romantic hero of the entire book (he has a brief scene in the prologue) and the last sentence is a witty remark about rainbows and unicorns.  I about died when I downloaded it and figured that out.  Needless to say, that’s not where I would have ended it if given the choice.  And since I self-publish, I do have a choice.  I put the sample I wanted to highlight as a free download on my website.  Crisis semi-averted.

Moving on to Book Two.  Since it’s a series, I’m holding out hope that readers who enjoyed Book One will just buy it.  Knowing that it won’t always happen that way, I’ll admit that its sample is definitely more captivating.  I jump right into the action and one of the big questions from the first book is in fact answered during the free sample.  It’s in Chapter Two.  So if you’re dying to find out the quick and dirty resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Book One, you can quite literally get it for free.  Of course, I hope you’ll want to keep reading after that, too.

For Book Three (which is dangerously close to being finished, which always causes me to pull back and delay things a little bit) I employed a different tactic.  I planned my sample portion out to specifically exclude the reveal of a major plot point.  This secret is something that I’ve been leading up to for two whole books and I’m not about to just give it away.  Yes, I know that once it goes live, the potential is there for someone to inadvertently spoil it for others via a review or a discussion, but I’m not going to personally hand it out on a silver platter.  So being mindful of my anticipated word count, I made certain it happened after the twenty percent cutoff point.  There’s still plenty of action and drama in the sample portion, but not the huge WTF moment that I’m dying to let loose.

Since I don’t read samples of other ebooks, I really can’t compare what I’m doing to what anyone else is doing.  Sure, I can mentally calculate what the sample of the current ebook I’m reading would have looked like, but it kind of defeats the purpose.  I can’t answer the question of if I would have been sold on reading further because I’ve already bought it.  It’s a moot point.

I guess I’m still stuck in my childhood, where I never would have dreamed of pulling a book off of a shelf at a retailer and reading the first few chapters in the middle of the store before deciding whether to buy.

So for everyone else out there, how important – really – is the sample portion of an ebook?  Do you religiously download the free sample before you buy?  Does it only factor into your purchasing decision if the book is by an author you’re not familiar with?  Have you ever decided not to buy a book because of what was included in the sample?  If you download a free sample, how long does it take for you to read it and either give it the thumbs up or down?

Just curious.

 

 

 

 

Read an E-Book Week March 2 – 8, 2014

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Today marked the kickoff of Read an E-Book Week 2014.  This is my second year participating in the promotion via Smashwords, and it’s been something that I’ve been looking forward to being a part of again.

So what exactly is it?  In short, it’s a movement to encourage those who may never have picked up a Kindle, Nook, iPad or iPhone to do just that and see how convenient it is to read on these devices.  As more and more people are opting to employ this method for at least some of their reading, I think it will become less and less about awareness.  It’s also an opportunity for authors to promote their electronic works as part of a collaborative effort.  Many Smashwords authors are offering their books at free or reduced pricing, myself included.

Last year, I was admittedly green when it came to the whole concept.  My first book had just gone live on Smashwords when this promotion hit, and wasn’t yet available at all the other retailers.  But I still jumped in head first and signed up, eager to get as many eyes on my work as possible.  In doing so, I offered my brand new book for free.  After all, it was all that I had.  I received more downloads during that week than I bargained for and began to feel pretty good about myself.  Once the excitement had died down and my book went back to full price, I returned to relative obscurity, just like many people with only one book out do.

If you’ve visited here long enough, you also know that during that period of time, the first book in my series was pirated.  It’s something that can happen to any e-book, anywhere, but I think it happened in my case because I gave it away for free.  I don’t employ DRM on my books when I upload them, though some retailers like Sony (which will soon be a moot point) add it after the fact.  Even if I did, it’s plenty easy for tech-savvy individuals to remove DRM and do with your file what they wish.  After a little hand-wringing, I decided that I’d chalk it up to experience and consider it an extension of this free promotion.

So this year I’m back again, but with two books in my catalogue.  After the piracy thing, I’ve decided to not offer any book other than my first for free.  It’s already out there for illegal consumption; there’s no real harm in offering up the sanctioned free version.  As far as book two, I’m offering that for 50% off.  We’ll see if attaching a cost to it will keep it off those torrent sites.  I’ve found the sample on a couple of them, but considering that the download link takes you to my Smashwords page to get the first 20% of the book, I’m not concerned.  You can get the first 20% of it for free anywhere.

I’m really excited to see how this year’s results will compare to last year’s.  So far I’ve seen a trickle of downloads for the first book and absolutely nothing for the second.  I’m still learning this marketing thing as I go, but my tactic for the near future is to promote my first book heavily (or as heavily as someone like me is willing to) and let it drive sales to the second.  And when the third comes out later this year, hopefully I can start picking up some traction and an honest to goodness fan base.

I think we’re past those days when free books led to massive exposure and increased sales activity for weeks to come, but every little bit helps.

So consider heading over to my Smashwords author page and checking out my books.  While you’re there, take a look at the other books being offered for free or at reduced prices.  You just may find a new favorite author!

 

Why Preorders Should be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Those of you who have visited my blog previously probably know that I’m a big supporter of having your work available through as many outlets as possible.  You also know that I distribute my books through Smashwords in addition to uploading directly to Amazon.  I’ve touched on my experiences with preorders here before, but recently there was a post on this very subject on the Smashwords blog, along with a call to action for any authors who had used their preorder option to blog about it.

The following is a slideshow prepared by Mark Coker of Smashwords which sums up why self-publishers should be using this service:

Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders: A Guide to Preorder Strategy from Smashwords, Inc.

 

Though this slideshow does an excellent job of explaining why all indie authors should include preorders as a component of their marketing strategy, I wanted to touch on a couple of points that I personally noticed were benefits.

First off, preorders allow for you to have a set date on which your book will go live on retailers’ virtual shelves.  As exciting as it was to publish my first book at the beginning of 2013, I didn’t have the option of doing a preorder then.  So my book came out at Smashwords one day, Amazon another, B & N yet another and iTunes even later.  Planning a release day event would have been mind-boggling at that rate.  Fortunately, when my second book was ready to be published, I opted for the preorder feature and knew when my new release would go live.  As you can imagine, it helps marketing immensely when you can quote a specific date instead of a general idea.  Plus, you have the links available for each retailer well in advance of the big day and you’re not scrambling at the last minute to get them out to tour companies or posted on your website.

Something else that I haven’t seen mentioned is that once the book is uploaded to Smashwords as a preorder, you as the author have access to download the whole thing.  This allowed me to do my final proofing on my Kindle.  Mind you, everyone else can see the sample portion (in my case, the first 20%), so you want to make certain that your work is well-edited prior to uploading.  This was invaluable to me because I noticed some quirky things that looked perfectly fine in my Word document, but didn’t translate over to the Kindle version well.  I used the highlight feature on the Kindle to mark the sections that I wanted to revise, then went back once I was completely done reading and fixed them.

My first experience with the preorder feature was decidedly positive.  I’d like to report that simply because I took advantage of this option that my book sales skyrocketed, but that’s not the case.  Part of this reason stems from the fact that I don’t yet have a sizable backlist from which to gain momentum.  Conventional wisdom says that most authors need three to five books under their belt before they really start to get traction.  After all, who would anticipate a release from a brand new author except for a select few friends and family?  I’m currently standing on the threshold of that three to five book window, and my fingers are crossed that it holds true for me as well.

As an aside, I also took away some food for thought from Mark’s slideshow.  I chose a Tuesday as release day for my second book since the majority of others do that as well.  If you think about it, books, DVDs and music are commonly released on Tuesdays.  It just seemed natural.  But he makes an interesting point for indies to release on other days of the week, when consumers will be less bombarded with shiny new objects and it might be easier to get noticed.  I might just have to try that with my upcoming book.

There’s no one trick to mastering the art of book marketing, but having as many tools in your arsenal as possible definitely helps.  That’s why every book that I publish from this point forward will utilize the preorder option.

Questions?  Comments?  Any experiences of your own with preorders either as a publisher or as a reader?

 

 

 

Instant Gratification

I’d say that 99% of my reading nowadays is done on my Kindle – or on the Kindle app downloaded to my iPhone.  For a device that I initially questioned how much I would use, that’s a pretty staggering rate.  Gone are the days when I would hit the library to check out the latest “it” book that I was hesitant about buying.  No more rushing to the store in a mad dash to pick up the next book in a series because I absolutely, positively, had to know right now what happened next.

Anticipation has been reduced to nothing, unless you count the few seconds it takes to download your newest purchase to your gadget once you hit the “One Click” button.  The only time I really have to wait for something involves those excruciating months between preordering something and waiting for it to go live.  And I’d have exactly the same issue with a physical copy, so that’s beside the point.

I’ve been lucky to continue along my happy reading journey by pointing, clicking and settling right in to the first chapter for a little over two years.  Until recently.

In my other life, I talk on the phone to people across the country at a fairly regular interval.  During the course of normal business conversation, you sort of get a feel for those individuals that you can share some non-business related topics with.  I’ve chatted about hockey, kids, weather and of course books.  In one such conversation, a book was recommended to me and I decided to check it out.  I looked up the author, read the blurb on Goodreads, scanned the reviews and it seemed intriguing enough to purchase.  Naturally, I whipped out the trusty old Kindle, searched for it and found absolutely nothing.

That’s right.  Nothing.  It’s available for purchase on Amazon in paperback, but not in ebook format.  I would have thrown my Kindle across the room, but it had done nothing wrong.

Thinking I must be crazy, I took to the internet.  There I found a PDF copy which would have eased my craving right away, but I’m not about to go there.  Unless the PDF comes directly from the author’s website – or a reputable retailer is offering a copy –  and I know he or she intended for me to read it for free, I won’t do it.

A copy was available at my local library, so I resigned myself to the fact of waiting until the weekend when we could make our pilgrimage there.  While I was impatiently waiting, I mentioned it to my husband.  He told me to just go ahead and buy it.  I think his words were something like:  “Go ahead and support another author.  It’s cool.”  So we left the library copy at the library and trudged over to Barnes and Noble.

I had already done my due diligence by that time, so I knew it was only available at one of our city’s two locations.  Of course, it wasn’t at the one closest to my house.   A trip clear across town was in order, the prize this very elusive book.  I parked a mile away from the mall entrance in nasty February Indiana weather, the end of my journey in sight.

Only it wasn’t.  I couldn’t for the life of me find the book in the store.  By this time, I had a hungry husband, two impatient children and a throng of people surrounding me with no  employee in sight.  Rather than go on an expedition of futility to locate it in some weird section myself, or wait who knows how long for someone who could help to wander by, we just went home.

Home, where I pulled up the Barnes and Noble website and ordered the darn thing there.  Home, where I realized that there is an ebook version, but only for the Nook.  (Who does that anyway?  If you’re only going to have it be available on one ebook platform, why would you pick the Nook?  Why not Kindle or iBooks, because I have access to both of those?  But I digress.)

I got a message today that my order has been shipped.  With any luck, I should be holding it in my hands by the end of the week.  Certainly not as easy as pointing and clicking.  And after all of this struggle to get it here, I hope it’s as good as I want it to be.