Thursday, November 17, 2016

You Know That Whole NaNo Thing? Yeah, About That...

Writing a 50k in 30 days. That was such a cute idea, wasn't it? Unfortunately, this has been an off year for me with less than 3000 words written and we're beyond the halfway point of the month. But it's not all bad.

One of the reasons my NaNo novel is stuck in park is because the annual freelancer's dry spell hasn't quite settled in just yet. We'll give that one a small shout of glee. The other reason? Another story idea has come up. Poof! Right out of thin air, and I can't stop thinking about it. It is another that goes into the literary fiction category, and I'm intrigued by it. I'm going to respect my current NaNo project and not start on it until December, but I really can't wait. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Anyone else inching closer to the NaNoWriMo finish line?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Quite a Long Day...

I'm not going to lie--this is a tense day. But don't all important elections have that gross hangover feeling? It doesn't matter who you voted for. I tried to stay out of publicly expressing my political opinions and I don't plan to continue talking politics publicly after this for two reasons:

1. To get the full picture of why someone supports a candidate, a proposition or a party the way they do, you should probably be looking them in the eye to discuss it. Social media is the worst place to do this because you can start a reasonable conversation that spirals into insults you'd never say to someone's face. But what's worse is that social media allows you to block and ignore different points of view. Like money, sex and religion, politics is personal. But all sides should be heard and respected for the fact that someone feels deeply about it.

However, if you decide to put your opinion into terms that only work to demean the other side just because you think you can, I do have the right to not acknowledge it. Put it in a respectful manner, and you're opinion will be respected. 

2. I am writer, so I may be able to state my opinions a bit more eloquently at times, but that doesn't mean I should take every opportunity to do so. Writing is a hard enough road to take without dismissing a large group of people just because we disagree on, well, pretty much everything when in comes to government players.

It's not about just being kind to people (though that's important). I have no issue admitting that not talking about politics is directly related to the idea that I don't want to offend a potential reader because that impacts my dismally small bottom line. So far what I write is for entertainment only and will be for the foreseeable future. I may someday release work that challenges these ideas, but if I do I'll understand the consequences.

Have I ever given readers an idea of how I think on political terms? Probably. I do occasionally like creative or entertaining posts with a political spin. I am a mass of statistics that pollsters will tell you comes to an obvious conclusion of how I think and how I feel about politics. And maybe they are correct. I think fairness is something to strive for on all levels. I believe everyone has the right to do what makes them happy, as long as it's not directly hurting anyone else. I believe we had a good thing going and now there's a sense of dread and chaos. But we all did what we thought was best for each of us. That's what we're supposed to do, even if we aren't happy with the outcome.

The only thing that's making this day redeemable for all of us are people that have made the point to tell us to continue loving and respecting each other no matter what. Because seriously, if I loved and respected you yesterday, it's going to be the same today.

And if that doesn't do it for you, go hug a puppy or something. That makes everyone feel better.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Amazon's Powered by Indie: The Power to Pretend You Care

Anyone who had a book published through Amazon through CreateSpace or KDP probably received an email or two last month about Amazon's Powered by Indie campaign. I was one of the authors that received the first email in which Amazon was congratulating me for having one or more of my books included in the promotion. Can you understand how exciting this was?

Well, at least for a few minutes.

I immediately headed over to the special page featuring all these great independent authors. And what I saw was not surprising--a small range of top-selling indie authors. I went directly to the author filter list because I wanted to see which of my books had been chosen to be featured. The email hadn't been specific. I searched for my name, my titles and everything I could think of. I wasn't listed anywhere.

This should have discouraged me, but it didn't. I reread the email, thinking I was stupid or something. It made a plea to promote this great thing Amazon is doing by talking about your own indie publishing experience on blogs and social media, because your story may be featured.

Huh. So that's what's up. I get it. I immediately wrote a blog post (which was genuine in sentiment) and posted it all over social media. I thought I was catching on. Maybe my book wouldn't show up on the featured page unless I promoted the Powered by Indie page.

Wrong again. I also had the idea in my head that this would be a rotating feature, changing the books daily or weekly throughout October. There were only a couple of thousand books (if that) promoted by an even smaller number of authors, because most had multiple books featured. I will admit that I checked every day all month long for my book to show up, but not because I actually thought it would. I just wanted to make sure that I was in fact being duped into giving the online sales giant free advertising. Which, if you think about it, was useless because most authors end up only promoting their work to other authors, who probably don't buy as much of it as you think (though we do support each other in different ways).

I checked the wide expanse of the web for author chatter about this since I didn't know if the original email was a mistake or a ploy. Some authors admitted to not getting the email at all, while others were in my position, searching for their own featured book that wasn't really featured. About ten days after the initial email, everyone on KDP received an email about doing your part to promote it, but it didn't contain the promise that your book had been featured.

To be honest, I have enough problems getting my books in front of the right people. I don't need Amazon distracting me from that. And keeping me from improving my book sales does the company no favors (though a boost in books sales from me probably wouldn't be noticed at all). 

And just to add to your knowledge about indie sales in general and the all-time sales slump that's happening right now, I ran across this post that provided all I needed to know about why Amazon is nothing more than a necessary evil, not in any way a helpful entity for those selling less than a few thousand copies per month.

So much for Amazon creating an indie renaissance. They have the power to do it, but it's not as quick and easy as working with the publishing powerhouses. That leaves the indie author to keep doing it on their own. The renaissance will come. Just maybe not tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tis the Season for NaNo

NaNoWriMo, Day 1:

This is what you would call a better-than-nothing start to NaNoWriMo 2016.

But all is not lost. I caught up on yesterday's word count this morning and intend to add some each day until I totally crush this contest. As you can clearly see, the first week enthusiasm as not worn off yet. Don't worry. It will.

I can also say congrats, international readers! You now have another option for buying my novel Seeing What Develops. It's now available for purchase at Kobo and more options will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks.

And I know what you're thinking--where's your traditional Year One post about Seeing What Develops? I didn't forget about the post--just haven't finished it yet. I'll get it to you soon.

Off to more writing adventures...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Author Newsletters: A Reader's Perspective

Email lists: sometimes these are more valuable to writers than the scant royalties they receive from book sales. These lists help you connect to readers, and more specifically, readers that are interested in your work. But how do you manage newsletters sent to those readers? How can you ensure that you won't get constant unsubscribe notifications? Here are some things that I've learned as an avid reader signed up for quite a few author newsletters.

DO: Provide plenty of info on your latest book

DON'T: Give out the first twenty pages in your regular newsletter

Getting excerpts of upcoming novels is a great thing, especially if your readers are fanatic and you're sharing pieces of the next installment of a series. However, as a casual reader, I may not want to scroll through miles and miles of text to get to a link (or, if I'm really annoyed, the unsubscribe button) or a giveaway that you placed at the bottom of the newsletter. The solution? Place your excerpt on your website and link to it. Or, there are options such as InstaFreebie which can provide a better way of giving out sneak peeks and extended excerpts. 

DO: Include a personal note or link to latest blog post

DON'T: Tell me every single thing that happened in your life this week

Loyal fans love to get to know their favorite readers outside of the writing itself. It gives them a sense of how you tick. Many authors provide this information through blogs and social media. And that's a great way to connect on a deeper level to readers. However, putting pages and pages of personal details in your weekly newsletter can get daunting. I get a newsletter where the writer goes on forever about all the stuff they bought and all the crafts they worked on that week (which has nothing to do with the fiction they write). The only reason I still get their newsletter? I get so frustrated from scrolling through to try and get to the unsubscribe button that I give up and just delete it.

But authors, let's not get too personal either. I subscribed to an author newsletter and not ten minutes later, I received what looked to be a regular, personal email from the author that said: "Hey, how are you? Tell me about yourself." Now I haven't seen an email like this since I still used Yahoo Chat in my teens. It's creepy, and it feels off. Don't get that personal unless you're sure you want to freak out your audience.

DO: Provide info on other authors and titles I might also enjoy

DON'T: Automatically sign me up for 30 of your friends' mailing lists

Giving your fellow writer a leg up by exposing your existing email list to their work? I applaud you for that. Forcing to me to sign up for all of their email lists? Not cool.

This did happen to me in the last couple of months. And I don't know how. I followed a link in one of these newsletters to a page where I had access to download dozens of free titles. The actual cost? If you downloaded a book, you were signed up for the author's email list. It was clear from the beginning, so I didn't mind. The problem was I didn't see any titles that interested me--and didn't click on a single book cover to download. However, over the next week or so I found out that I was subscribed to all of their lists anyway--and I didn't enter my email anywhere! I still don't know how they did it, unless it was from the single link I clicked on through the original email. I was not happy, and that's not the way to expose your readers to new writers. Let them come over willingly and you could have a loyal fan for life.

DO: Send out regular newsletters

DON'T: Send out newsletters twice a day

Your life and your career isn't that interesting. No seriously. I get that you're excited about an upcoming release. I understand when you go to a writer's conference for the first time and want to share what you learned. You, Responsbile Author, I don't have a problem with. It's that one behind you. Yeah, YOU.  The one that can't leave their computer screen long enough to do anything other than send ANOTHER email newsletter out.

I've been signed up for newsletters that have come to me up to three times a day--that, my writer friend, is excessive. If you are concise in how to present your information, this can all fit well inside a weekly newsletter. But what if you have great news to share like a contest or some other really cool thing? That's a toss up. I would say that there's very little that's so timely you can't wait to share it. A single weekly address should be standard.

There are exceptions, of course. A daily email blast on your release week is probably not a bad thing, but make sure that each newsletter that arrives in your readers' inboxes contain thoughtful, engaging and not completely repetitive information.

DO: Provide extras and incentives for sign ups

DON'T: Promise incentives that you don't deliver

I think every person I know has signed up for an email newsletter to get a discount, a free book or some other useful digital item. Authors offering these things are often giving away high quality work--short stories, extend excerpts, free full-length novels. What I can't stand, however, is anyone running an email list that offers an incentive and doesn't deliver.

Remember that story I shared just a few paragraphs ago about the creepy personal email? Yeah, I only signed up for that mailing list to receive a partial list of bloggers that review books (the rest of the list being available in ebook form). Not only did I not receive what I was promised, I got the creepy response to boot.

Under promise and over deliver. Every single person that's ever worked for a business or ran their own business knows that basic rule of marketing.

Full disclosure--I'm a writer without my own mailing list (at least a formal one). Yes, I know that's the most basic mistake I can be making right now, but when I get past all the hurdles to having one that complies with laws, ethics and basic email etiquette, I'll let you know. That's why I've written this from a reader's perspective. I'm not pretending to be an expert on mailing lists, but I thought this could be a useful perspective for writers.

As always, let me know what you think. Happy writing!