I’ve spoken here a couple of different times about my hate/hate relationship with Facebook. The only reason I have a personal profile there is because I need to have one in order to have an author page. I don’t post personal pictures or status updates. If something really exciting is going on with my page, I will share it with my friends. I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but at least they can tell I’m alive. I do admit to scrolling through my news feed to see what’s going on with other people, but I don’t like or comment as just plain old me. My author self does all liking and commenting, which isn’t a whole lot anyway.
Up until June of this year, I didn’t even have an author page, because my disgust with Facebook was so strong. Then I took part in a really awesome Facebook party with other authors and I changed my tune a bit. Since I had so much fun hosting that event for my allotted hour and I met so many cool reader types during it (who asked me if I had an author page they could like), I decided to bite the bullet and create a page.
Since then, I’ve been fairly good about posting updates and content that I don’t share on Twitter – my social media drug of choice – or Google Plus, which I dabble in from time to time. After all, there are at least a few people who follow/like/whatever me all three places and I don’t want to bore them to death. I’ve also been rather lucky at growing my audience. When I first started out, I doubted I would ever reach that 100 likes milestone that Facebook dangles before you. But I bested that number two times over plus some, mainly because of a new release/giveaway promotion in July and just a plain old giveaway that I took part in with about 100 different indie authors.
Most of those people who liked my page have stayed around. Judging from my stats related to reach, most of those people don’t ever see a single word I post. Considering that I’ve found documentation that a common visibility percentage is between 2-6, I’m still kicking ass in that department. But then we get into the bane of my existence: the unlike. Over the past week, that nasty occurrence has reared its ugly head more than once.
My gut instinct is to immediately ask “What did I do wrong?”
I’ve been around on Twitter long enough to not be bothered by an unfollow or ten after I tweet something. And I certainly understand a drop off of followers after a giveaway ends and a winner is announced. If you look at the majority of Twitter accounts of people who seem to do nothing on the site but enter contests, you notice that they have only a handful of followers themselves, but are following just under that magic number of 2,000. It makes sense that they’d pack up and run because they are on to the next contest entry.
I had to do a little digging, but I did come up with evidence that there is a Facebook liking limit as well. The exact terms of it appear to be very vague and confusing, or maybe that was just me because I was nursing a headache when I read them. But it appears that some contest enterers frequently hit this Facebook liking threshold and have to clean up shop.
I’ve told myself that this is likely what has happened in my case, but there’s something about Facebook’s terminology that makes it seem more personal. It hurts way more to be “unliked” then it does “unfollowed”. After all, do I really want someone tracking all my movements like that action on Twitter implies? Not particularly. But let’s face it: everyone wants to be liked.
So for you that use Facebook: are you very selective with your likes? Or do you like any old thing that tickles your fancy at the moment – from a toothpaste company to a band – and then deal with the consequences later? And what makes your list as grounds for an unlike?
I’ve been watching too many cooking shows. To be honest with you, that’s about all I really watch on television anyway. As a family, we decided a year or so ago to give up cable, since we weren’t really watching it enough for the exorbitant amount we were paying per month to be worth it. Let’s face it; when I’m at home and not actively doing something with my family, I’m either writing or reading. When I do stare blindly at the TV, my attention is focused on public broadcasting’s wide array of foodie shows.
So it’s reasonable to use a food analogy for my writing method. By definition, marinate means to soak or to steep. Most often in a sauce, but for my purposes, in my brain.
We’ll start off small. With my blog posts I typically have a few ideas rolling around in my head each week for things I’d like to discuss. Some are serious, some are self-promotional, others are off the wall zany. I’ll try to come up with a witty title and a short, tweetable plug that I’ll send out to announce it’s there. This all happens before I sit down at the computer and actually write the thing. Posts are typically written on Monday or Tuesday nights, then saved and published on Wednesday late nights so they get emailed to my subscribers on Thursday mornings.
Some weeks, I’m a fountain of creative genius that people may or may not be reading. I’ve been known to fire off three or four posts in a single week, though I don’t share them immediately. Most of the time my limit is two per week max- one that I share for Monday Blogs and if there’s a second post, it’s book related or promotional. Since I hate spamming “look at me” posts, I don’t expect the promotional ones to be retweeted by my blogger friends.
But always, always, there is a cooling off period where I let my thoughts marinate. I go back and read it before I send it out into the world. I edit, or add things, or delete things all together.
Why? Because in real life there are so many times where you’re caught up in the moment and the conversation doesn’t go as planned. How many times have you thought of a kickass comeback hours later and wished you could have said it? In my blogging life, I go back in and add it before anyone else reads it. So ultimately, I look super witty the very first time. Nobody sees how many revisions my posts have. That’s my little secret.
I’m the same way with my novels. I’m not an outliner, but I’m not a true pantser either. It’s no secret that I have entire pages of dialogue already written in my head for my WIP. I have scenes scripted screenplay fashion, with a character that I haven’t even physically introduced yet playing a crucial role. No, I don’t write these passages down, nor do I write scenes out of order. And no, I don’t forget what’s going to be said. It’s all there marinating, waiting for the perfect moment to come out.
Case in point: the main character in my WIP has been a scene stealer in the previous three books. Without a doubt, she’s the comic relief and she gets the very best, most memorable lines in every one. Her sense of humor obviously comes from me, but I can’t write those things for her on the fly. Okay, sometimes I do – but it’s very rarely at the precise moment they can be used. Instead, I think them up and commit them to memory, inserting them when the timing is right.
Now, writing an entire book from her point of view is a bit intimidating. So I’ve had to think long and hard about her moments of brilliance in this one, so as not to disappoint her fans. I think I’m doing pretty well at it so far. But I’m still scared that I won’t be able to top my personal favorites of “No wonder you’re depressed. Those clothes are making me sad, too” or “All it took to make things right in the world was a conversation and a good screw”. Did I mention she’s kind of raunchy?
I’ve got some good zingers floating around in my head. They find their way eventually into my Word doc and sometimes morph into greatness during editing. Other times, I don’t have to add anything to them.
Just today, I came up with a line that will be marinating for the next seventy thousand words or so. It’s in one of the final scenes, but this time the credit doesn’t go to my heroine. I’ll leave you with it to ponder:
“You’re so good at making me forget that I don’t even know why I wanted to remember.”
As some of you may already know, I’ve signed up for an Author Fair this fall at my public library. Although they do allow entrance to authors who only have ebook copies of their work available, the draw is obviously there to bring along paperback versions of your novels, as you’re encouraged to sell them there. Add this to the fact that I’ve read time and again that while ebooks are taking over the market, you’re still wise to have hard copies available. Plus, someone who read my last book contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I had any book signings planned.
Mind you, I can already autograph ebook copies. But the thought of actually sitting at a table with a pen and signing a real book for a fan just seems way more impressive than sitting at my laptop and trying to do an impersonation of my signature with my mouse.
So I decided if I was going to do this thing, I would do it right and have some real life hard copies of my series available. If I’m being honest with you, I don’t expect to sell a single one of them. But I’ll have a copy of each for posterity, I’ll probably sneak a set onto my employer’s book cart in the break room to see if anyone notices, and the rest will make awesome doorstops.
Like many self-pubbers, I opted to use CreateSpace for my paperbacks. I’ve heard horror stories about formatting, page numbering and the like, so I did a bit of research before diving in. I bookmarked some helpful blogs, scoured the CreateSpace website itself and also went to the ultimate source – a book on my bookshelf.
Then I set to work. Obviously, the hardest part was already over. I have three books that are currently published in ebook format. So there’s over three hundred thousand words already plotted out. Already read and reread, over and over until I can recite them in my sleep. All I had to do was make them pretty on paper.
I started in chronological order, choosing to format my first book first. I made only a couple minor changes to the file. I shortened a “you are” to a “you’re” in the prologue, because it really, really grated on my nerves when I had to read it over and over in excerpts on the blog tour I did. I added a missing (in some versions) word back to the last chapter. I updated the page with my other books in the series to reflect Books 4 and 5, which haven’t come out yet but are already titled.
Then I got down to the hard part. I was timid, expecting to experience the nightmares that I’d already read about. I formatted according to what guides told me, doing things I didn’t understand because it was the next step on the list. I opened up the actual paperback on my desk and confirmed little, silly things that I’d never considered before. Things like how chapters start on odd pages in traditionally published books. Things like how the front matter isn’t page numbered, nor are the first pages of each chapter. So while page two is the second page of Chapter One, it’s not the true second page of the book. And there’s no (marked) page one.
Much like the first time I formatted my first book for ereaders, the exercise made me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth. But I got through it, and still came out alive on the other side.
The second book didn’t go as well for me, though the total formatting time was less than the first. This is because I went without the assistance of webpages and blogs. Instead, I referred back to what I’d already done with my first book and attempted to recreate it. Just when I thought that I’d gotten it right, a quick check through the interior viewer would confirm that Chapter Such and Such still began on page 204, and I really didn’t have a good concept of what I was doing. I tried to be all ninja like with Odd Numbered Section Breaks, but for whatever reason they didn’t seem to stick. Ever. But after much yelling at my computer and much uploading to CreateSpace, I got it done all in one night.
The next night, I came back for Book Three. And to potentially get my ass handed to me yet again. That’s when the magic happened. I didn’t refer to anything. No blogs, no websites, no Book One or Two. I put in my earbuds and just went to town on the thing. I didn’t think about formatting. It all came naturally. I did sing (loudly) through three complete Parabelle albums, which usually drives my girls nuts, but since this was infinitely better than me screaming at my computer, they didn’t say one word.
Which led me to believe that I do my best formatting when I’m not thinking about formatting at all. It also led me to question whether I could make any money doing it for other people. After all, CreateSpace’s packages start at $199. I think that price includes a bit more expertise than I could provide (and undoubtedly less cursing), but still. They’ll also happily do your Kindle version for something like $80. That’s a lot of money that some people are willing to shell out for a couple nights’ worth of work. Even if I charged half that, it’s still a nice little chunk of change.
Then I remembered that I am super anal retentive. No joke, my rough drafts – ever since the first book – are all fully formatted for ebook consumption. I write them that way so once I’m happy with the edited version I can just slap on the copyright, front matter, back stuff and be done with it. I couldn’t deal with someone else’s files handed to me every which way. So there goes that career path.
But at least I know when I’m ready to print Book Four that it’s not a daunting task ahead of me. And I can be glad that I will never, ever, have to do three paperbacks at once again.
I’ve been sitting on this bonus content for quite awhile. However, in honor of Labor Day and not working, I thought it would be appropriate. After all, Eric and Lauren didn’t exactly work, either.
There’s a couple minor spoilers in here for those of you who haven’t read “Designed” yet. I don’t feel too badly about revealing that, yes, Lauren and Matthew get married in this book because that part was already pretty obvious at the end of Book Two. This leaves what I consider spoilers to be a.) Blake and Eric make a bit of a scene at the wedding (unbeknownst to either her brother or new sister-in-law), and b.) what Eric sees at the very end of this content.
That being said, enjoy!
This week I’m taking a departure from my usual self-publishing/social media/writing rants and I’m going to focus on something entirely different. Something totally self-indulgent, trivial and non-important. Why? Because I can.
And because my head is spinning trying to put three books into paperback all at once. (Whose bright idea was that? Oh yes, that was mine!) But more on that in another post.
I’ve mentioned previously that shortly after I took my new author picture I totally changed my look. The semi-shoulder length, blond highlights are gone. At first I went to an asymmetrical short haircut, but now I’ve settled down with a full on pixie cut. Said pixie cut gets magically blonder and blonder every seven weeks or so, to the point where I’m almost platinum up front and darkish brown in the back. I’ve also gotten a new piercing because now that I’m minus some hair, you can actually see it.
For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been pretty experimental with my hair. I’ve been almost every naturally occurring hair color – blond, black, brown, red, you get my drift. Even gray, though not anywhere close to all over, but that’s because I’m getting old. For a few hot minutes I was also pumpkin orange, but it wasn’t on purpose. I’ve even had zebra striped hair (dark brown with huge chunks of blond – it was way more attractive than it sounds; my husband loved it).
For my formative years, my mother forbade me to cut my hair. So I wore it in the usual little girl style, long and nearly halfway down my back. Only problem was that my hair was and still is baby fine and super long isn’t the best look in that case. Couple that with the fact that my mom didn’t allow me to take daily showers, and by puberty it looked like a disaster by dinner time. Long and stringy isn’t a style; it’s a recipe for embarrassment.
One of the first things I did to rebel against my mother was cut my hair. My aunt served as a co-conspirator in this mission, sometimes paying for me to get my hair done when I went to visit her. My mom always had some snide remark when I returned home with considerably shorter, different colored locks. The one that stuck with me was how I’d “whacked” it all off, because it was ripe with mental imagery of a mob boss forcibly removing several inches of my hair, sending it down the river tied to cement blocks. I’ve always had an author’s mind.
Once I started messing with it, I found I couldn’t stop. I did attempt a grow out and was successful for a time during my zebra striped stage. That was my second favorite look, after all. But then I became bored and the scissors came back out, much to my husband’s chagrin. This ended with hand wringing and the promise of more growing out.
Until the cool thing became to have a pixie cut and celebrities right and left began cutting off their hair. The itch for short hair came back with a vengeance and my husband and I went through pictures and settled on a look. Even though he swears up and down that my hair never looks like what I’ve shown him. But that’s okay.
So now, I’m shorter than I’ve ever been and I absolutely love it. You know how you read about those haircuts that look perfect no matter what you do to them? I have one now. I can shower, comb it out and let it air dry and it looks exactly the same as if I take a blowdryer to it and use styling products. I can make it messy and spiky (and bird-like if you ask my sweetheart) or I can wear it smooth and classy.
I’ve also gotten more compliments on my hair than ever before. From both men and women. From women, though, it’s usually paired with something like “I wish I had the courage to do that”. Or “my husband/boyfriend/whatever likes long hair, but I would do that if I could”. Seems my mother isn’t the only one who holds fast to the little girl long hair stereotype.
For the record, my daughters aren’t ready to jump on the short hair bandwagon. My youngest recently told me that she saw a boy on YouTube with the same haircut as me. Whatever.
I don’t see myself as courageous. I’m truly a bit of a wimp. I’m nowhere near as brave as other people, but if I had to pick my personal moments of bravery, cutting my hair wouldn’t make the list. Self-publishing would. Completely natural childbirth would. Other things, too. But not hair, because it’s – well – hair. But it does get easier the more that you do it. I started out with baby steps, going to shoulder length – gasp! – and slowly progressing further north. Now that I’ve been everything in between, my hairdresser knows I’m not kidding when I walk in and tell her to cut it all off. Or make it black. Or blond.
But I like this so much, I don’t see it changing for a while.
I’ve written about piracy before. I even came up with a catchy title for my first post on the subject, written shortly after I discovered that my first book was available for illegal download on a handful of websites. And those are the ones I know about. I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re curious, you can read my original thoughts here:
The fact that my book appears on these sites doesn’t keep me up at night. I view it as free publicity and move on. In retrospect, it’s not really any different than me offering my first book for free via coupon code to anyone who cares enough to download it, which I’ve already done on several occasions. It’s just a really extended promotion.
Even so, I’ve attempted to prevent the rest of my books from ending up on those same sites. As far as I can tell, I’ve been successful. How so? I’ve not offered them for free publicly. Those who have gotten free copies from me haven’t posted them on torrent sites. For what it’s worth, those that have paid for them haven’t posted them, either.
But if you search for my second and third book on Google and page far enough down in the results, you will find that they have been requested on torrent sites. By name. Sometimes with links to their Goodreads pages.
That’s kind of flattering.
And it got me thinking. If someone wants to read my books so badly that they specifically request them by name on a torrent site, isn’t that exactly the kind of person that I want reading them? Aren’t those the type of readers that could potentially be some of my biggest fans? The people that are searching out my book and posting about wanting a pirated copy would probably actually read it if they got a hold of one.
Now, my books aren’t expensive. I price them at $2.99. And though a voice in the back of my head tells me that if someone wanted to read them that much, they’d just plunk down three bucks to do it, I also realize that not everyone comes from the same background or lifestyle that I do. I’m lucky enough that I can pick up a new book without giving a second thought to the purchase. Not everyone is. Trust me, I’ve dealt with job loss before and know that it can be a struggle to come up with money for necessities, let alone funds for frivolous purchases like romance novels.
So that led me to this thought…
What if those people that posted on the torrent sites about wanting to read my second and third books had instead searched me out and contacted me?
I would have given them a coupon code and told them to have at it for free. Then asked nicely for an honest review when they were done. Then continued asking very nicely for them to tell everyone they knew about it, especially if they thought it was good. But even if they hated it (because any word of mouth is free publicity, and some people search out things that get bad reviews).
In this world of giveaways and contests, some people are so desensitized to getting things for free that they sometimes forget that they’ve won anything. Maybe they win so much that they can’t keep track of it all. Case in point: the last three book giveaways I’ve done, each time I’ve had at least one person not redeem their codes. I know this because I track them.
I’d much rather give something away to someone who genuinely wanted and appreciated it.
So here’s my open letter for those who, for whatever reason, feel that the only way they will ever read one of my books is if it’s available on a torrent site. Instead of asking strangers for an illegal copy, send me a quick message on Twitter, Facebook, or here. If you’re sincere (and as a mom, I have a pretty keen BS meter), you’ll likely get what you ask for.
I write fiction, but it’s fairly realistic. I tackle some pretty serious subject matters in between the snarkiness. My characters have gone through some deep stuff: death, disownment, financial crises, drug and alcohol abuse, legal issues, you get the idea. I can’t even openly discuss one of the major plot points in my new release without giving away a huge secret – or potentially crying – so we’ll just focus on something innocent and non-controversial.
Let’s talk about sex.
Specifically, the double standard that exists in regards to men and women even in a fictional setting. It’s perfectly okay for a guy to be a player, but when a lady does the same, she’s labeled something not so nice.
I’m a contemporary romance author. Sex plays a part in my books – I won’t lie. And while it’s not uncommon to have a heartbreaker type alpha male as the lead, a woman filling that role is a bit harder to find. So I wrote one.
Two of my main characters are brother and sister. Same upbringing, same swoon-worthy attractiveness. Same predilection for one-night stands or at least back-to-back revolving door relationships.
Not surprisingly, the readers have spoken and have deemed him “adorable” and “almost too perfect”. I agree with them on the adorable part, but I’m biased. And he’s nowhere close to perfect (on purpose). Mind you, this same guy went to jail for six months, had massive issues with drugs and alcohol and slept with 36 women before finding his true love.
Conversely, his sister single-handedly dealt with his incarceration, taking care of his house and personal affairs in his absence, driving him everywhere for years when his license was suspended (twice), all while earning a college degree and starting her own business. She has a one-night stand vice, however. Though her number isn’t revealed, she does state that 37 is “child’s play”, so it’s more. By quite a few. What have I heard about her? She’s “selfish”. Never mind that she’s still in love with the person to whom she gave her virginity (and he with her).
And this is from an audience who is largely female. My male readers haven’t chimed into the discussion yet. Maybe they’ll think she’s cool as hell.
By the end of the story, most everyone warms up to her. But by then, she’s turned her back on picking up people at bars and giving out fake names. It is a love story, after all.
I’m not surprised by the general consensus. Society has raised us to believe that men are attractive when they have notches on their bedpost. We like the bad boy, all while pretending we’re the good girls. Guys openly brag about their conquests, while some women feel ashamed if they’ve had previous relations before finding “the one”. But let’s think about it. If guys are running around conquesting all over the place, there has to be a female population participating.
I guess they’re just quiet about it.
So what are your thoughts? Are alpha females attractive, too? Or is there a stigma attached that can’t be overcome?
I don’t pretend to know everything about self-publishing. Lots of times I can string together sentences that sound impressive, but I’m still learning. As most of you know, my third novel was recently released and I experimented with this a bit. Being through two release days already, I had a general idea of what was good (almost nothing about how I released #1) and some things that I wanted to tweak.
So here goes – my list of what I learned this time, in no particular order:
1. Releasing on the same day that Kindle Unlimited goes live is a real buzz killer on Amazon if your book isn’t part of the program. Had Amazon consulted me prior to making the big announcement, I would have politely told them that July 18th was already spoken for. Since they didn’t, I was pretty much hosed by everyone trying out their shiny new subscription for 30 days free. I have yet to sell a single copy on Amazon.
2. Fortunately, iBooks stepped up for me in a big way. Since July 18th alone, I have sold over three times the number of books on iBooks as I did there for the entire year of 2013. Sales there have now bested what I’ve done on Amazon so far this year. This makes me very happy, and proves my point that I’ve made the right decision (for me) to be available through as many outlets as possible.
3. I’m not sold on the idea of a Friday release day. I did it once, just to see if I could gain traction by releasing on a day not chosen by traditionally pubbed authors. Even most self-pubbed authors still release on Tuesdays, just because it’s ingrained in our heads. Maybe it’s the trickle-down effect of KU as well, but my release day sales for Book 3 were much less than they were for Book 2. At this moment, I’m pretty much in the same boat sales wise as I was at the same point with copies of #2. Looks like Book 4 will be back to a Tuesday release day; I didn’t hurt anything by trying.
4. Preorders are still useful, even if no one did. With only three books out, I haven’t developed a rabid fan base yet. It will happen. But the value of having a set date for your novel to go live is priceless. That and having your links for everywhere else but Amazon well in advance to post on your website, send to bloggers, etc. No one noticed that my book was live on Amazon a full 10 days before release day so that I could prepare for the big event, but I was pretty coy about that fact.
5. When writing a series like mine, even if your book is technically able to be read as a stand alone, people appreciate it a whole lot more if they’ve read the others first. I never really doubted that. The majority of the reviews that I’ve gotten from people who’ve admittedly not read the first two are definitely not as glowing as the ones from those who’ve been along for the complete ride. Mind you, these stand alone reviews still aren’t bad. Even with a bit of quick recap, it’s impossible to make up for two hundred thousand plus words of character development. Especially when my characters’ lives are as intertwined as they are, and by design the next book in the series always picks up right where the previous one left off.
6. We’re trained to believe that reviews sell books. I agree that reviews are important and I’m working hard to get more for Book 3 than any other previous novel. However, I have reviews on Amazon and no sales. I have sales on iBooks and absolutely no reviews there for any of my three books. Yes, I’ve got Goodreads and B&N reviews as well, not to mention people posting them to their personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter. But either people on iBooks are buying blindly, or they’re reading the reviews elsewhere and then picking up a copy from Apple. I’m not sure.
7. I thought that price always moved books, but I’ve found preference does. I made it very clear through all of my channels that the first book in my series was free all July and book two was half price during that same period over at Smashwords. I didn’t expect to get any full priced sales on either one throughout July. But I did, because people bought from the vendor that they felt comfortable with. And that is what is beautiful about distributing everywhere – the freedom for your readers to choose who they give their money to.
8. I don’t want people to like my books because I give them trinkets. Sure, I’ll give out free copies of my new release – even before you can buy it – in order to hopefully draw some buzz. I’ll even give out the entire series for free so people will read it as intended. That’s been more successful for me, and possibly more appreciated – judging from some emails I’ve received – than my attempts at giving out Amazon gift cards. It also pisses off my husband a lot less. But I don’t think I’ll ever give out bookmarks, t-shirts, keychains or the like to advertise my stuff. I know lots of authors do, but I’m not convinced that buying someone’s affection really helps the bottom line. Writing an awesome book does. I can do that for free.
9. It’s time for me to consider putting my books in print for a very limited run. This was the first time anyone, ever, has asked me if I have a book signing planned soon. She lives in Indiana, so I think if I did, she might actually come to it. Our local library holds an author event every fall and I’m considering ordering a few paperbacks of each book and signing up for it. Then begging my Facebook fans who live close enough to me to come to it so I don’t look like a complete loser.
10. This writing thing is far more fun than I ever imagined. I always say that my next book will be the best one. Even though I’m very proud of what I’ve already accomplished, I’m not about to stop now.