Archive for the 'About Writing Fiction' Category

Writer’s Journal Review – Primer for Beginning Authors

Norway IS the new Scotland!

That’s my story & I’m sticking to it. Watch the video HERE. 🙂

I plan to be back to blogging on Monday, August 16. The independent publishing market continues to simmer – are there any particular questions you want me to research? I’m here to serve!

Kris 😉

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention: PROMOTION ~ The READER Version a.k.a Building Your Tribe!

Did you like the last post on promotion? But wait – there’s more! 🙂

According to what I heard at RT, a new author’s READER push should begin 2 months before the book is released. Here are some ideas from the RT seminar that target READERS:

  1. Write something from your character’s perspective: a blog, newsletter, an author (that’s you) interview, a Facebook page. Update on a regular schedule – at least once a month.
  2. Enter contests where READERS are judging.
  3. Offer free reads on your website such as short stories about secondary characters and deleted scenes from your books.
  4. Participate in blog tours – especially READER blogs – and always give something away.
  5. Connect your website to other authors who write in your genre. Those readers find you, and your readers find them.
  6. Hold Facebook contests where readers post on your wall.
  7. When the last book in a series is released, give the first book away.
  8. Make funny videos and upload them to your YouTube channel. Even if your books aren’t funny, laughter goes viral; dark and serious doesn’t.
  9. Find a gimmick. It makes you memorable.
  10. Take a look at buying promotion. Names tossed out were: Author Buzz, Constant Contact, Writerspace, Host for You, Sparklist, Fresh Fiction and DearReader.com
  11. Look at technology. How can you use it to push content to readers? Are Smartphones in your future?
  12. Arrange as many signings or appearances as you can, even on vacations or other trips – and list every single one of them on http://www.BookTour.com!
  13. Follow the 3-click rule: Website visitors should be able to purchase your books in 3 clicks or less.
  14. Join a local Speaker’s Bureau.
  15. Contact local newspapers and your TV stations’ local shows.

*whew* …Makes me tired to think of it all!

For independently published (and e-published) authors, this type of publication will supplant much of the trade promotion, as indie-pubbed books don’t get ordered by the Big Box Bookstores, as a rule.

But according Publisher’s Weekly, more than 764,000 self-published and micro-niche books were published in 2009, compared to 288,000 traditionally published books, so obviously the competition is there – and it’s stiff. (Stay tuned for my next series: The Death of Traditional Publishers? A Compilation of Opinions – with some exciting guest input!)

No matter where or how an author is published these days, it’s obvious: effective promotion, dogged perseverance and endless patience are the keys to success!

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention: PROMOTION-PROMOTION-PROMOTION ~ The “Trade” Version!

I learned so much at RT this year in preparation for my fiction author debut this fall. One area I especially wanted to learn more about was how to effectively promote my books. After all, no matter who you are or who you are publishing with, today’s new authors must promote themselves. And this convention exists for that very purpose!

So I attended a panel presentation hosted by a professional public relations company, one that focuses on authors. Here are some practical things I heard:

  1. A new author’s TRADE push should begin 6 months before the book is released.
  2. Independent bookstores love small (8.5×11) posters for end-caps. Make some of your book cover and send them out.
  3. Mail postcards to bookstores asking them to mail it back IF they want an ARC (Advance Release Copy). This way, you don’t waste too many copies sending them to places that aren’t interested.
  4. Most independent bookstores have reading groups. Ask about speaking to them!
  5. Leave a bag of give-away items when you do.
  6. Sign copies of your book and put appropriately-sized stickers (don’t block important parts!) on the covers.
  7. Make bookmarks. A key point was made here: authors are inundated with bookmarks; readers are not. For the average reader, a bookmark can be a treasure. Indulge them.
  8. ON THE BOOKMARK, mention if the title is part of a series, and what number book in the series it is. People need to know.
  9. ON THE BOOKMARK, include a plot description.
  10. Target 10 independent bookstores at a time. Send them end-cap posters, bookmarks and selected giveaways.
  11. Target 10 plot/setting/character related outlets at a time. Send them posters, bookmarks and selected giveaways.
  12. Give local libraries FREE copies of your book.

The gist was to target independent bookstores – ones who make their own decisions about what titles to buy. While the Big Box Bookstores are stocked by corporate buyers, authors can affect how visible their books are once they are in the stores by making themselves noticed – in a good way!

Other bits of random advice:

  • You already have your website. Now purchase the domain names of your book title(s) and have those domains link to the page on YOUR website that refers to that book.

For example: http://www.AWomanofChoice.com would be routed to this page: http://www.kristualla.com/A_Woman_of_Choice_Chapter_1.html Once there, the reader could read the first chapter of that book, then (hopefully) explore my whole site.

I added 5 domains and routed them for a whapping $35 per year. I’d say that’s money well spent, considering that now my book titles will show up on search engines and take the searcher straight to my site.

  • Branding is still the key element. Consistency from beginning to end is crucial.

On the trade side this means that every scrap you put in a bookseller’s hand needs to match. Find something about your books – all of them – that can be a visual trigger pointing attention specifically to YOU. They suggested picking 5 words that convey who you are as an author (related to your writing) and bounce off of those.

If you are being published by a New York house, this will probably be decided for you. If you are independently or small press pubbed, you should have some say. In either case, the promotions that you do on your own should be coordinated with what your publisher decides to do!

Next up is Reader Promotions: Building Your Tribe – helping them to find you and to love you.

Romance Book Covers: THE RESULTS

I don’t often make this blog about me, specifically. I have written from my experiences and tried to legitimately link them to the big world out there. But this time, it was definitely personal.

So, THANK YOU to everyone who posted and emailed me about the book covers. It was interesting to read your comments and I made some decisions based on them. So today’s post is mostly visual.

First – I went to Wordle.com (thank you, Nannette, for the link!) and made a word cloud from the comments, phrases of which I cut and pasted. The big words appeared the most often, the smaller words, less so:

Blog Response Word Cloud

Cool, huh?

The response to the covers was overall positive, but the lack of people on the front covers was a stumbling block for many. What I’ve done, then, is to have the heroine represented on the cover of “A Woman of Choice” and the hero represented on “A Prince of Norway.” I have NO idea what I’ll depict on the third book (it’s a trilogy), “A Matter of Principle”… But I still have a couple months to figure that out. *gulp*

My apologies to those who wanted to envision the characters for themselves. These photos actually match the descriptions in the books, and I was pleased to find them on Fotolio.com.

So, here are the updated designs. I do want your honest feedback, should you be willing to give it, but I won’t post again about this particular subject. Thank you all – you are amazing!

And now I’m off to Columbus, Ohio to attend my very first Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. We’ll see what subjects and information I come home with next week. Watch out – you never know with me!  🙂


A Woman of Choice Full Cover

A Prince of Norway Full Cover


Romance Book Covers: What do women REALLY want?

Interesting question.

Two things prompted this train of thought. First, I was reading my Kindle at a diner, glad that no one could see what sort of reading I was doing. (It was literary fiction, but still.) I had a moment as some people walked by when I thought: “Can they tell what I’m reading?” and was inexplicably relieved that the answer was no.

Secondly, I spent last weekend at a writer’s conference where we each received a bag of promotional materials – mostly glossy bookmarks with book covers splashed across them. Men’s abdomens were in abundance, rippling over low-slung jeans, pantaloons, trousers or kilts. The rest had women, displaying their thighs – some in garters and stockings – through a slit in their skirt, or their bared shoulders and backs.

Hmm.

Publishers will tell you that half-dressed bodies (most of which were faceless, cut off above the jaw line) sell books. I find that hard to prove when there aren’t other choices offered. It’s like saying glazed donuts sell best at Krispy Kreme, when ALL of their donuts start out glazed!

But as I discuss the subject with my friends who enjoy reading, most of them say they would prefer book covers that aren’t embarrassing to hold up in a Starbucks. Or ones that they feel comfortable leaving on the coffee table where their kids see them. On the inside cover – be as seductive as you want. But on the outside, they want classy.

This subject is particularly important to me, as I am currently designing book covers for the American historical romance trilogy which I am publishing this fall and winter. I want the covers to reflect the settings as well as the stories.

And – I want the covers to match each other in design, so it’s obvious the books belong together.

And – if my agent isn’t successful and I end up publishing my other manuscripts as well (none of which fit the publisher’s beloved “boxes”) I want ALL of my novel covers to match.

So, I want classy. The question is, am I shooting myself in the foot? Will women stay away from my novels because no one is being ravaged on the covers? Or because no man is stripped to the waist and flexing his multi-pack?

I don’t know. What I do know is that the designs I have been working on are starting to look pretty good (in my VERY humble opinion). So I’m posting two of them here and asking for your input. Your HONEST input.

Based on the covers, would you buy these books? Or flee to the ripped-bodice section? No judgment! I just want to know.

Thanks in advance.

A Woman of Choice Book Cover

A Prince of Norway Book Cover

E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 4

I have a few random and quick final observations that I want to add to the e-reader discussion before we move on:

1. As new-sale bookstores continue to suffer, second-hand bookstores will thrive.

New-sale bookstore closures are following the pattern set by the highly publicized closings of specialized music, video and record stores. As more and more people convert to e-readers over the coming decade (and old and hard-to-find books become available electronically) some of us will pitch our dusty and disintegrating paper versions.

(Yes – they will. No – that is NOT a sacrilege! Let’s go through this again: the medium is not the message.)

Books will then become a bit of a collector’s item. Not always for actual reading, but for having. Like baseball cards, vinyl albums and cameras that use film. Just as specialty-music stores have found their niches and are surviving in the new world of music downloads, used bookstores and specialty bookstores could thrive in the digital-book age.

2. The future of bookmarks is hazy.

Obviously, with e-readers you don’t need one. But they are an ubiquitous marketing tool for authors… So will authors continue to have them printed? Maybe. They are colorful, informative memory-prompters that fit into most purses. And they are harder to lose than a business card. It’s quite possible they will still be handed out by the thousands for the next several years.

But if anyone has another cheap, quick, marketing idea – get on it. YOU could make a jillion dollars!

3. Editors and agents already read and edit their submissions on e-readers.

Having said THAT, I need to tell you what happened this past weekend when I was pitching a manuscript to several editors at a writers’ conference. After saying in a panel that they are looking for something different, in a fresh voice, two different editors actually said to me: “I don’t know how I would sell that… Publishers like their boxes.”

How ironic. Reading submissions on the very device that makes their job unnecessary in my “I-don’t-want-to-write-in-your-box” career.

So what made my book un-sellable in their eyes? It was set in Norway, not England or Scotland. I. Am. Serious.

4. E-readers/e-publishing can save University presses.

University presses are an arguably essential – if obscure – segment in the world of scholarly non-fiction publishing. They bring prestige to universities by publishing the research and written work of their highly-degreed staff members.

These books obviously have very low sales and a very narrow reading audience. But e-publishing is free, unlike standard paper publishing, and books can be distributed to other universities across the country in a few seconds. In the climate of squished and smashed budgets, this is VERY good news!

5. Now – Repeat after me:

  • I will not say anything good or bad about e-readers until I have read at least one full-length novel on one.
  • I will not make claims that I assume to be true about e-readers until I have done the research.
  • I will keep an open mind and admit that an e-reader might be in my future – because I don’t want to have to eat my words later.

Have I missed anything?


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E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 3

It’s time to talk about e-readers from the author’s perspective. But readers – this is for you as well; so pay attention and stay with me. It’ll be worth it.

Ready? The publishing market is deregulating.

Okay, technically it’s not regulated now, so it can’t be “de”… But think about it this way: In 1975 I moved from Milwaukee to Phoenix. Back then – when airlines pricing and routes were regulated – it cost $350 to fly round trip between these two cities. And there were far fewer airlines to choose from.

Today, it still costs about $300 for that flight. But my starting teacher’s salary then was $8,000. Now, teachers start at $32,000 or more. So logically, the airline ticket should now cost $1400. So why doesn’t it?

  • Deregulation, which allowed competition.
  • That competition spawned dozens of new airlines.
  • The best airlines – ones that were fiscally sound, had good customer service and low ticket pricing – survived.
  • Fine. But what does this have to do with publishing?

Plenty. E-readers demand electronically published books. Electronically published books don’t need to go through the big New York publishing houses. Authors can upload manuscripts from home in their pajamas. For free. So e-readers are, in effect, deregulating publishing by:

  • Creating a demand. That demand can be met by:
  • authors by-passing the traditional houses through technology.
  • The best authors – ones that write well, have good marketing platforms and competitive pricing – will survive. Thrive.

No longer will the consumer have choices made for them by skittish publishers who are afraid to step outside of their “we-know-this-will-sell” boxes. No longer will they stand in front of a store’s shelves, staring at book after book by established authors who haven’t written anything new or exciting in years.

Their “airline” choices are about to take off! (I know. That’s a groaner. Sorry.)

Authors who write unique books are now able to take those books directly to the consumer and for a fraction of the cost. And – this is where it gets really exciting – much higher royalties. My e-book on Smashwords sells for $2.95. I pocket $2.18 of that, not 29¢ minus an agent’s 15% commission.

Pricing is a key component. Readers are much more willing to risk $3 than they are $13 or $30 on an unknown product. There is no reason for e-books to be expensive. They don’t require paper, ink, boxes, trucks, or floor space. Or have returns.

Authors can even afford to give e-books away to generate interest. If the author is good, word spreads. Eventually, they go viral.

And the 18-20 month lag time between a traditional sale to a publisher and the date when the print book is released will shrink. Production takes so much less time for e-books because everything is designed and transmitted electronically, and available immediately. For authors who are quick writers, this means that trends can be spotted and seized upon before the market is glutted with vampires or boy wizards!

The most exciting thing is this: with e-publishing, the author can be in control of their own career.

Now it’s Time for a Big REALITY CHECK: An author starting this path will sell FAR fewer books to begin with, and spend LOTS more time on marketing themselves. Plan to spend those 18-20 months you gained getting word out about you and your books! Just like it took some years for the airlines to shake out, it will take some years for a brand-new author to find his niche, and to build her fan base.

But because e-books don’t take up warehouse space, as long as they continue to sell any number of copies, there is incentive to keep them available. They will never go “out of print”!

Which means, when someone stumbles across your 6th novel, and looks you up at Amazon, they will see ALL of your work, no matter who published it. Now your first novel, which has been out for a few years, will generate new sales. It all builds on itself!

If an new author is patient, dedicated to creating a quality product, and willing to work their arse off marketing themselves, then e-publishing (with it’s sister: print on demand) and this “deregulation” is the best news in – literally – centuries.

Next: E-readers – Good news for second-hand book stores.

E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 2

Let’s take a look at electronic readers from the human reader’s perspective. I’m going to move away from the “but I like the feel of paper” argument, because – as the objections I addressed last time have shown –  many of those people haven’t ever tried an e-reader. Or tried one with an open mind.

The best news for human readers is that e-readers are becoming more accessible! According to Wired.com, Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader is expected to go on sale at Best Buy stores in the U.S. starting April 19, while Amazon’s Kindle might be seen at Target later this month. This is great news! Expanding the market must result in competitive pricing, especially considering today’s retail climate. I’m practically drooling.

And speaking of today’s retail market, here are some numbers you might find interesting:

The American Association of Publishers (AAP) reports that in 2009, U.S. print book sales fell 1.8% based on sales data from 86 publishers and data from the Bureau of the Census. BUT according to the 13 publishers that report figures to AAP, e-book sales shot up 176.6%!

The jump in e-book sales coupled with the decline in print books increased e-books’ market share from 1.2% in 2008 to 3.3% in 2009. Shall we ask why?

1. Price. Books are cheaper – or free. And you get to keep them.

2. Portability. Carry your entire library in your briefcase or your purse.

3. Accessibility. Finish that Twilight book and need the next one at 1:15am? No problem.

What else do you need?

I have a dear friend who hopes that she’ll be able to rent books someday like she rents movies: pay a monthly fee, have them downloaded to her reader for a period, then deleted by the supplier. I thought that made a lot of sense, until I started researching it. Here’s what I found:

If I want to rent “Citizen Kane” or “Avatar” I will pay the same rental fee for both movies, whether I do it in person at Blockbuster or online through Netflix. If I want to purchase a DVD of those two movies, they will cost about the same. Movie pricing is pretty stable. Rental fees are stable. Premium channel subscriptions are stable.

But I went to Amazon’s Kindle Store, selected fiction, and had the choices (all 179,446 of them) sorted by price – low to high. I stopped scrolling after I hit a thousand FREE titles. There were more, but my index finger got tired. (I’ll be going back to get some of those, though!)

Considering that e-books can be had for free, and many are priced under $5, what would the monthly fee for “renting” e-books be? What would make it viable? Considering that a movie can be watched in 2 hours, but a book may take 2 weeks to read, how can a monthly rental price be set that gives the consumer true value?

(After posting & talking to my friend, I am amending my comments!) It doesn’t seem that it can, UNLESS this service is offered for new releases only which sell for up to $14.99 apiece. A monthly charge of, say $8.99 per month – comparable to Netflix – with unlimited downloaded rentals might work, but only if the books were withdrawn after a set time period, such as 30 days. Any entrepreneurs out there want to tackle this one?

Factor in the upcoming generations and tight school board budgets. One e-reader costs less than 2 new textbooks. And those e-textbooks can be automatically updated wirelessly. The average high school student has 5 textbooks a year; double that for college. And those books are freakishly heavy. See where this is going?

I will concede that e-readers are prime for fiction – but that is also the largest share of book sales! Romance books claim 27% of the entire print market. Non-fiction that is read for personal gain is also well-served. Non-fiction read for instruction requires a device that allows for highlighting, annotating and bookmarking, and the heavy hitters do.

The book and print industry has gone largely unchanged since Johannes Guttenberg first pressed for profit back in 1450. While his invention inarguably changed the world, we are probably due for another change.

And this change is hugely beneficial for authors as well as readers! Come back Thursday and find out why!

E-Reader Hysteria: A little common sense to correct the discussion – Part 1

I am so tired of misinformed or misguided e-reader comments and complaints that I feel compelled to knock heads together! E-readers are HERE. They are MULTIPLYING. Their sales and the sale of e-books will continue to INCREASE.

Those who are complaining about this just need to stop. Just like television and email – two historical inventions that naysayers snubbed as “will never be important” – e-readers and e-books ARE the Next Big Thing.

Now let’s look at why this is NOT a problem:

1. SOME BOOKS WILL NEVER BE SUPPLANTED, only supplemented! For example:

  • Children’s books – These are short, instructive narratives which rely on their artwork to engage pre-readers. The ability to print beautifully colored and sometimes 3-dimensional images are key to their very existence!

This cannot be duplicated by a basic e-reader, especially since most use black & white e-ink technology. Not to mention, no one should hand an e-reader to a drooly toddler to carry around, bang on tabletops or feed to the dog! Duh.

BUT… What young mother wouldn’t LOVE to carry that same toddler’s 50 favorite books onto an airplane on a colorful tablet that also plays movies? And holds her own books and movies for when that toddler nods off? Huge duh.

  • Coffee table / art books – These books are experiences in and of themselves. They require immense size to adequately convey their subjects. They also rely on color and detail to engage the beholder. These books become the art.
  • How-to Books – When and where are how-to books read? Under sinks… under a pile of upholstery fabric… under stress. This is the time for large, clear illustrations and the ability to hold that illustration in place with a greasy wrench.

BUT… multiple instruction manuals can be loaded onto one repair person’s e-reader, and your dishwasher’s model number can be easily searched for. Think about it.

  • And – any other book that requires any of these components to be successfully experienced.

2. PERSONAL LIBRARIES WILL STILL EXIST. But I must say, I’m a bit of a tightwad. I would much rather sample 50% of an e-book for free to see if I like it before plunking down my hard-earned cash for a hard copy. Sadly, I will never get the money back that I spent on “Edgar Sawtelle”… a.k.a Hamlet re-told. But I have bought hard copies of my favorite authors, even if I prefer to read them on my Kindle. (Show of hands: aren’t Diana Gabaldon’s books SO dang heavy?)

3. E-BOOKS COST LESS than paper books. Lots less. See #2. And they are good for the environment. Ask any tree or fossil fuel.

4. LIBRARIES DO LEND E-BOOKS. Stop saying they don’t.

5. YOU DO OWN THE BOOKS YOU BUY. And if you lose your e-reader, your purchases are backed up online. Some e-readers have removable memory discs, and some purchased e-books are downloaded to your computer. Stop saying you are only “renting” them.

6. YOU CAN MAKE NOTES IN YOUR E-READER. Stop saying you can’t. Kindle allows you to bookmark, highlight and type in notes as you read, then lists all those spots for you to easily go back and find. None of my textbooks did that.

*breathe*

Next time: Part 2 – From a reader’s perspective

Then: Part 3 – From an author’s perspective


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Authorpreneur Kris Tualla

www.KrisTualla.com

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