Author
Header image

Clean Indie Read

September 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Annette in Books | Marketing | Perspectives | Reviews | Writing Tips - (0 Comments)

Clean Indie Reachs Blog ButtonI have posted about this on face­book but decided to post a fresh link on my blog. The Clean Indie Read blog that started a cou­ple of months ago has got­ten off to a tremen­dous start. It’s a site that lists inex­pen­sive ebooks rated G, PG, or PG-13. As I have watched this blog get started, I’ve been amazed at how fast it has grown. It’s a great resource for both read­ers and authors. If you haven’t taken an oppor­tu­nity to check it out, here’s the link: Clean Indie Reads. The blog is run by the amaz­ing, Lia Lon­don.

Below is a list of gen­res posted on the blog as of 9.22.13.

This is an update from a pre­vi­ous post:

I’m com­ing to the close of my first free pro­mo­tion, which ends tonight at mid­night. I can see why so many authors go for this pro­gram. “The For­got­ten Queen” has been at #1 in Arthurian since yes­ter­day, #2 in his­tor­i­cal since last night, and #574 in ebooks. Even though my “sales” have been pretty high, I feel like I need to watch and see how the num­bers land after the pro­mo­tion ends. It will be inter­est­ing to see how “The For­got­ten Queen” ranks tomorrow.

My biggest griev­ance with the KDP pro­gram is that I know so many peo­ple who love their nook and/or other ereader devices. I still haven’t made up my mind as to whether or not I’ll con­tinue with the exclu­sive KDP pro­gram for another 90 days or not. I guess it all depends on how the num­bers go in the next few weeks.

Yes, it’s true, this is my sec­ond post in a sin­gle day. But, I promised I would keep track of my book sales on this, my very first #free ebook pro­mo­tion day.

So this morn­ing I posted that by 9:00 AM I had sold 71 copies of “The For­got­ten Queen.” I use the word “sold” loosely, since there is no actual exchange of money. It’s free today and tomor­row. As of 2:00 PM, I have sold 135 copies today. My rat­ing on Ama­zon have gone from ~68,000 in ebooks and  #20 in Arthurian (yes­ter­day), to 1,733 in ebooks, #2 in Arthurian, and #10 in his­tor­i­cal today. I would be very happy with that, except for the fact that when I actu­ally click on the links to see the place­ment of the book in those cat­e­gories, it does not show up. Ama­zon glitches have been typ­i­cal with this novel for some rea­son. Whereas my “Class Col­li­sion” series always shows up imme­di­ately in the rank­ings, “The For­got­ten Queen” is no where to be found, even though the link is active. I think it might be time to con­tact Ama­zon and ask them what the deal is. Is there some­one on the staff try­ing to sab­o­tage my fab­u­lous book? Surely not.

For other authors out there, you might be inter­ested to know that there is no other pro­mo­tion going on for “The For­got­ten Queen” right now, other than the fact that it is cur­rently free. Soooooo, yeah, … doing the exclu­sive KDP free pro­mo­tion does seem to “sell” the book, but as for this rais­ing my actual rank­ing, … I’m not con­vinced yet. Maybe if “The For­got­ten Queen” starts show­ing up when I click on the link, then I’ll finally admit it. Hmm.… I’ll keep you posted.

~Annette

To KDP or, not to KDP. Now, that IS the question.

My first two nov­els were released to a wide range of dis­trib­uters. As I picked up sales, I began to notice a trend. When I did no adver­tis­ing, I sold more books on nook than kin­dle. (I know, I know, that is soooooo NOT the norm!) I guess that was why I was a lit­tle skep­ti­cal of the exclu­sive KDP pro­gram on Ama­zon. But still, those free pro­mo­tion days were mak­ing me sali­vate. That’s why I opted to “test” the pro­gram. My third novel, “The For­got­ten Queen,” has been enrolled in KDP for almost 90 days. Finally, I decided to run those free pro­mo­tion days. Here’s my exper­i­ment as it unfolds.

With­out any pro­mo­tions, from May 1 — May 7, I sold 15 copies of “The For­got­ten Queen.” This morn­ing my free pro­mo­tion began. So far, as of 9:10 AM, I have “sold” 74 books today. (The word “sold” just seems so wrong.) But there’s a painful kicker here. Ama­zon is cur­rently NOT list­ing “The For­got­ten Queen” in any rank­ing. (What the? Where did my num­bers go? That is sooooo NOT nice! BTW, prior to this morn­ing, I was ranked at ~68,000 in ebooks, and No. 20 in Arthurian.) Now, as every­one in the book busi­ness knows, pro­mo­tions aren’t about how many books you can give away for free. They’re about build­ing a plat­form, rank­ing higher in the Ama­zon algo­rithm, and reach­ing poten­tial read­ers, and hope­fully a few good reviews along the way too. Any­how, I’ll try to update the “sales” progress as the day unfolds, so that other authors con­tem­plat­ing this deci­sion will have a lit­tle more infor­ma­tion to go on before mak­ing the 90 commitment.

BTW, I haven’t reen­rolled “The For­got­ten Queen” yet. My KDP exclu­siv­ity ends on May 24th. I guess I bet­ter decide soon!

~ Annette

So it’s been a few years now since I took the plunge into the pub­lish­ing world. I must say that the quote I heard back in 2009 while attend­ing my first writer’s con­fer­ence in New York has proven to be absolutely true. “The book busi­ness doesn’t run the way read­ers think.” I have referred back to that quote so many times, and every time I do, it rings even more true.

Back when I was a reclu­sive writer, I thought that the best books were the ones that sold off the shelves. I had lit­tle under­stand­ing that mar­ket­ing was the key to a book’s suc­cess. (Duh, you say? Yeah, … duh, indeed!) But it’s prob­a­bly a good thing that I didn’t under­stand, because back then I had zero inter­est in mar­ket­ing. All I wanted to do was write, write, write.

In the time since, I have come to a under­stand more about who I am, what I want to do, and how to go about it. Just in case a new author needs a lit­tle pick-me-up, I’ve decided to out­line some points that have helped me in this piranha pool.

1. Good writ­ing is not rewarded by sales. Good writ­ing has noth­ing to do with sales. Sales are a result of good marketing.

2. To make a busi­ness out of writ­ing, mar­ket­ing is required. Period. A mediocre book will sell off the shelf if a genius is ped­dling it, while a mas­ter­piece may sit and do nothing.

3. Iden­tify your genre and reader audi­ence. If pos­si­ble, do this BEFORE YOU START WRITING YOUR BOOK. Though it’s impor­tant to be true to your inner story, there is no way to mar­ket a book unless you know who you’re talk­ing to.

4. Never knock another author or blog­ger, espe­cially pub­licly. I joined a few chat rooms on Ama­zon shortly after I started pub­lish­ing, think­ing that it was a good way to net­work with other authors. Lit­tle did I expect to be attacked. (Oh yes, the joys of neg­a­tive peo­ple.) But it was actu­ally a good expe­ri­ence, because I learned that no mat­ter who you’re talk­ing to, peo­ple will remem­ber. I know their names. I remem­ber their faces because I googled them. I learned that every­one is a poten­tial aid in the mar­ket­ing process. Back then I may have been a nobody, but that is no longer the case. Be polite. Be supportive.

5. Never com­plain about a neg­a­tive review. Review­ers, espe­cially blog­gers, net­work. They talk. They “spread” the word. You don’t want a back­lash. Remain pos­i­tive. Remain polite. And if pos­si­ble, find a way to thank peo­ple for their review. The same holds true in request­ing reviews. Don’t nag. Never harass. If some­one doesn’t want to review your book, don’t bug them!

6. It’s eas­ier to mar­ket mul­ti­ple books, than one book at a time. Some­times it really is best to do what you love, and write, write, write. Then, after you have a num­ber of books avail­able, push a mar­ket­ing cam­paign. It’s cheaper, more effi­cient, and far more effec­tive. That’s the way the pub­lish­ing houses do it. They have a gazil­lion books and mar­ket them in bunches because it works.

7. Remem­ber why you’re in this indus­try. There are so many peo­ple who are ready to stomp on you. BUT YOU CAN’T BE STOMPED ON UNLESS YOU PUT YOURSELF UNDER SOMEONE’S FOOT. Ignore the mean peo­ple. Ignore the petty. In real­ity, they are irrel­e­vant. They are the ones who will offend and thus, be pushed out of the game.

8. If you want suc­cess as badly as you want air to breathe, you will be suc­cess­ful. (I’m still work­ing on this one. Mostly I still just want to write. That’s my air. Sto­ries and plots.) If you have entered this indus­try for the fun of it, you’ll prob­a­bly be dis­ap­pointed. Not every­one is friendly. Not every­one is sup­port­ive. As I stated before, some peo­ple are down­right cruel. Ignore them, or let them hurt you. It’s your choice.

9. Sup­port other authors. Make friends. Net­work. (Seri­ously, this is cru­cial. NETWORK!!!)

10. Never give up. Dare to dream. Dare to face fail­ure. No one ever suc­ceeded by throw­ing in the towel. You can do it!

Bitly

September 6th, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives | Twitter help | Writing Tips - (4 Comments)

Twit­ter help for the new­bies out there.

Some­times it’s the lit­tle things that count. Any­one who works on the web knows that links mat­ter. If you haven’t checked out bitly, the time has come. It’s a fab­u­lous site that cre­ates short­ened web url addresses. And as any tweeter knows, the shorter, the bet­ter. To see for your­self, click on the link below.

bitly.com

Not only can you cre­ate short links on this site, but every link is saved for future ref­er­ence. These can be made pub­lic or pri­vate. In addi­tion, there is a tab for track­ing your link stats. Under this tab you can see the clicks for each link. You can even see where the links are being hit. Seri­ously, if you haven’t checked out bitly yet, do it now.

And since you’re going to love me for this, I’ll just say it now. Your wel­come! :)

 

 

They say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I sure hope so, because I’ve been there a lot. Unlike Michael Jor­dan, no one has actu­ally kept track of my stats. But I can tell you this, I am very famil­iar with fail­ure. Prac­ti­cally in the same breath I can also add that I have had a num­ber of suc­cesses. You would think that sooner or later fail­ures would end. But they don’t. No mat­ter how suc­cess­ful, no mat­ter how accom­plished, fail­ure just hap­pens some­times. It’s a fact of life. So rather than giv­ing up before you try: Dare to dream. Dare to face fail­ure. Dare to try your hard­est in the face of uncer­tainty, and ulti­mately some mea­sure of suc­cess will be achieved.

The Glass Cas­tle, by Jean­nette Walls is a com­pelling read. Nor­mally when I become so engrossed in a book I give it an instant five stars. Not so with The Glass Cas­tle. I’m giv­ing it four stars. The writ­ing itself is fan­tas­tic. Jean­nette Walls is a top-notch writer who uses the first per­son flaw­lessly. Usu­ally I get sick of all the, “I did this,” and, “I did that.” “I, I, I …” It’s enough to make me crazy! But I didn’t feel that way while read­ing The Glass Cas­tle. The sen­tence struc­ture is full of vari­a­tion, and greatly refresh­ing. Jean­nette Walls writes bril­liantly. Period. She helps the reader under­stand the feel­ings of all her char­ac­ters, not just the one. I’m an instant fan.

The main rea­son I didn’t give this book five stars is because it is true. That said, had it been a work of fic­tion I would have tossed it by chap­ter two, telling my self, this junk just isn’t plau­si­ble. And yet, it hap­pened. The more I read, the more that fact both­ered me. Jean­nette and her sib­lings han­dled the sit­u­a­tion amaz­ingly well, but the par­ents … I couldn’t get past them. It seems so wrong to reward that kind of thing with praise, even if it is a mem­oir. Had it not been for their kooky approach to life, there would not have been a rea­son to write the book. It’s a cir­cle I couldn’t escape: I hate that it’s true, yet it’s so well writ­ten that I couldn’t put it down. This tight knit fam­ily strug­gled des­per­ately, but it didn’t have to be that way. While it was obvi­ous the par­ents loved their chil­dren, they were so absorbed in self­ish­ness that their love was never real­ized. It never amounted to any­thing. The chil­dren were starv­ing while the mother ate secret choco­late bars. The chil­dren had no clothes, no toi­let, no warmth, no decent shel­ter, or food, while their father drank away every cent they had. When the kids earned money, the father stole it. When the kids found a dia­mond ring in the woods, and were going to sell it to buy food, the mother took it. After all, she deserved to wear nice things. The father even put his daugh­ter in phys­i­cal dan­ger so that he could win a bet. These kids were eat­ing out of the school garbage can. Jeannette’s brother had to sleep with a raft over him because of the mas­sive leak in the roof. When the chil­dren were in dan­ger, the par­ents shrugged their shoul­ders. When the chil­dren were being sex­u­ally abused, the par­ents ratio­nal­ized it away. After all, the abuser was only lonely, and chil­dren need to learn to han­dle those kinds of sit­u­a­tions any­way. It made for shock­ing, riv­et­ing read­ing, but it also left me feel­ing warped.

So five stars to Jean­nette for her amaz­ing abil­ity to write such a fluid nar­ra­tive. Zero stars to the par­ents who made the story pos­si­ble. Four stars to the book, with the ratio­nal­iza­tion that it prob­a­bly should be five, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.


Volde­mort.  That is all it takes.  Chances are, by read­ing that sin­gle name, the entire Harry Pot­ter series comes to mind.  Now think of Eliz­a­beth and Mr. Darcy.  Assum­ing you’ve read Pride and Prej­u­dice, a whole new feel­ing reg­is­ters.  Char­ac­ters and sto­ries are so closely related that they are almost one and the same.  This is why great char­ac­ters are not only impor­tant; they are absolutely essen­tial.  Most writ­ers under­stand this con­cept.  The dif­fi­culty comes in imple­ment­ing it.  Let’s start by look­ing at a few cap­ti­vat­ing characters.

 

Harry Pot­ter: When we first meet Harry, we find that he is pretty aver­age.  There has never been any­thing spe­cial about him.  Then, out of the blue,voila, we dis­cover he is unique.  He’s the reg­u­lar Joe turned super­hero, and audi­ences love him.

 

Meet Skeeter from The Help, by Kathryn Stock­ett.  Sup­pos­edly she is not pretty, though the movie char­ac­ter was gor­geous.  She cares more about get­ting an edu­ca­tion than find­ing a hus­band.  To her mother’s dis­may, she does not care about her hair and would rather speak her mind than fol­low social cues.  Though she is strong, she has had to move back home until she is able to land a seri­ous job.

 

Scrooge, from Charles Dick­ens’ The Christ­mas Carol, is the man we love to hate, until we start to feel sorry for him.  He’s stingy, mean, and some­times down­right cruel.  As the tale pro­gresses, we learn that he wasn’t always like this, and by the end of the story every­one wants Scrooge to make good.  We want him to take that leap of faith.  Do a good turn.  Buy the turkey in the window!

 

Cap­tain Ahab, from Moby Dick, by Her­man Melville: talk about trou­ble.  Ahab has become engulfed in revenge.  While he may seem ordi­nary at times, occa­sion­ally even kid, the vengeance in his heart is para­mount.  Every­thing else becomes sec­ondary, even life.  He is one of the most flawed char­ac­ters ever hatched, and yet he has lasted one hun­dred and sixty years and counting.

 

So what do these char­ac­ters have in com­mon?  Why do we love them?

 

  1. They are relat­able.  Read­ers under­stand them because, to some degree or another, we have felt what they feel.
  2. Great char­ac­ters are always flawed.  This is one of the most cru­cial areas of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment.  With­out flaws, char­ac­ters do not seem real.  They become hol­low imi­ta­tions of life, not tan­gi­ble beings.  Even Super­man has weak­nesses, and I’m not talk­ing about Kryp­tonite.  Sup­pos­edly he does not lie, yet his entire Clark Kent per­sona is a lie. He believes in being kind and cour­te­ous, while time after time leav­ing Lois Lane hang­ing.  Talk about rude.
  3. Great char­ac­ters are dif­fer­ent.  They have qual­i­ties that make them unique within the sto­ries they inhabit.  Harry finds out he is a wiz­ard.  Eliz­a­beth (Pride and Prej­u­dice) is high-spirited, edu­cated, smart, and yet blind as a bat.  Cin­derella loses her iden­tity when her father dies, and regains it by tak­ing on a secret iden­tity.  Edward (The Count of Monte Cristo) is loved by every­one except his best friend who throws him into prison for crimes he did not com­mit.  THese are unusual sce­nar­ios with unique, strong char­ac­ters who react in a time­less manner.
  4. Most great char­ac­ters have quirks: unique attrib­utes or tics that either tickle or dis­gust us.  Edward (The Count of Monte Cristo) twirls his hair.  Skeeter (The Help) takes secret phone mes­sages in the pantry so as to hide them from her mother.  Bella (Twi­light) is con­stantly trip­ping, falling, crash­ing, etc.
  5. Great char­ac­ters are strong.  Throw out the flimsy peo­ple.  Weak char­ac­ters will not do except in sup­port­ing roles.  Jimmy couldnever be Super­man.  It just wouldn’t work.  The main char­ac­ter must be able to carry the story, drive the plot, and grip the reader.
  6. Great char­ac­ters are lik­able.  When char­ac­ter­iz­ing a vil­lain, remem­ber that we want to love hat­ing him/her.  We want to enjoy how hor­ri­ble the char­ac­ter is.  We want to read the dirt and rel­ish it!  When char­ac­ter­iz­ing a hero, read­ers want to see him/her rise above the con­flict so that in the end, we can cheer our­selves silly.
  7. Great char­ac­ters grow.  They must change, morph, and become more than they were.  This is espe­cially true when writ­ing a series.  Char­ac­ters that stay the same do not seem real, and they are boring.
  8. In a series, the back­bone of a great char­ac­ter remains intact. Even though char­ac­ter devel­op­ment is cru­cial, the character’s traits should remain solid.  For exam­ple, Edward (Twi­light) is a vam­pire.  No amount of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment can or should change that.  It is who he is.  And beau­ti­fully enough, it is a flaw.  The same prin­ci­ple should apply to char­ac­ter traits.
  9. Great char­ac­ters are writ­ten by authors who know them well; they know what he/she will do given any cir­cum­stance or condition.
  10. Great char­ac­ters are cre­ated from the heart.  There is noth­ing more intrigu­ing than an orig­i­nal char­ac­ter fresh from the ink, molded to life on the wings of imagination.

 

If you want to write …

November 15th, 2011 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives | Writing Tips - (0 Comments)

If ever I had a book to share, it would be If You Want To Write, by Brenda Ueland. I read this book at a time when I was feel­ing self-conscious about let­ting peo­ple read my work, and I must say, it totally changed my per­spec­tive. From begin­ning to end you won’t find a sin­gle page detail­ing gra­mar, punc­tu­a­tion, etc. For this isn’t a book about edit­ing. Instead, the focus is on the actual writ­ing process: how to get your words flow­ing, keep it real, and make your story honest. Her advice is so real that it res­onates deep down where your imag­i­na­tion lingers. Here are a few quotes that really got me going.

Every­body is orig­i­nal, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from him­self. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be.” If You Want To Write, Chap­ter 1, p. 4

Well, Van Gogh was one of the great painters. Dur­ing his life he made only 109 dol­lars in all on his paint­ing. They are now worth about two mil­lion dolars. He had a ter­ri­bly hard life-loneliness, poverty and star­va­tion that led to insan­ity. And yet it was one of the great­est lives
that was ever lived-the hap­pi­est, the most burn­ingly incan­des­cent.” If You Want To Write, Chap­ter 3, p. 23. — I par­tic­u­larly enjoyed this chap­ter since Van Gogh is my all-time favorite artist. I some­times won­der how sad it would be had the world missed out on his genius. Then I think of all the amaz­ing com­posers I met while I was study­ing music com­po­si­tion in col­lege. I know they prob­a­bly won’t ever make it big, but that doesn’t mean their art isn’t worth the effort.

 

Chap­ter 4 is enti­tled, “The Imag­i­na­tion Works Slowly and Qui­etly.” This reminds me of the famous line, “you can’t rush art.” And, you can’t. Some­times you just need time to think it over. And over, and over again. There’s noth­ing wrong with let­ting your mind play with an idea, try it on for size, then chuck or keep it depend­ing upon what you finally decide. The point is, let it fes­ter a while. This in no way negates the prac­tice that some­times you should just spill those words upon the page as fast as you can. Brain­storm in every way shape and form to find out what works best for you.

In Chap­ter 5 she talks about tak­ing a walk. Can you see me smil­ing? Walk­ing allowed her imag­i­na­tion to loosen, and once that hap­pened free thought took place. It was dur­ing these walks that she came up with some of her best ideas. I can’t tell you how much I related to this chap­ter, since I think brain­storm­ing is absolutely cru­cial. Although I enjoy walk­ing, I pre­fer to brain­storm in the dark with absolute silence, and I do it every sin­gle night before I go to bed. Such sim­ple tech­nics can bring about so much pro­duc­tiv­ity. Then she adds this thought so as to explain that pure imag­i­na­tion isn’t some­thing that requires painful work. “I tell you this so that you will stop think­ing of the cre­ative power as ner­vous and effort­ful; in fact, it can be fright­ened away by ner­vous strain­ing.” p. 47. Boy, isn’t that the truth! In my opin­ion, allow­ing the mind to flow is the sin­gle best tech­nic for cre­ative writing.

Chap­ter 7 was prob­a­bly my favorite: “Be Care­less! Be a Lion! Be a Pirate! When You Write.” She con­tin­ues, “Peo­ple are too scared, too self-conscious, too proud, too shy. They have been taught too many things about con­struc­tion, plot, unity, mass and coher­ence. (They write) to impress peo­ple.” I couldn’t agree more. That was my prob­lem for years. I was way too self-conscious. It didn’t really hin­der my writ­ing, because I chucked all those old nov­els in the trash, some­thing that has me kick­ing myself now. “I just don’t know if I can take that kind of rejec­tion,” said McFly in Back to the Future. Ah, who cares, is my tune now. I write because I want to write. You have to learn to say, this is my art. And as long as you are true to what you write, the beauty, or the hor­ror as it may be, will shine through.

Chap­ter 10, enti­tled “Why Women Who Do Too Much House­work Should Neglect It for Their Writ­ing,” reminds me that Brenda Ueland lived in a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion than my own. And still, one of my biggest hangups to writ­ing are the house­hold chores. Being a mother is huge, and I would never want to neglect any part of that awe­some job. But the tedious work that goes with it can be so com­pletely over­whelm­ing. I would never get any writ­ing done if I had to be the per­fect house­keeper. That said, I took all day yes­ter­day away from my com­puter so that I could scrub and clean every­thing. It’s such a bal­anc­ing act to work, be mom, and have a writ­ing career on the side. Yikes! There’s no way I can get it all done. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try! I’d be crazy to say, it’s just too much, and throw up my hands in despair. Never. Keep going. Remem­ber the Lit­tle Engine Who Could. (Another book. Thank you beau­ti­ful writers!)

Chap­ter 13, “The Third Dimen­sion.” Yes! This is where the meat is. “You must never be an advo­cate of you char­ac­ters.” p. 122. In other words, just tell the story. Tell it true to life, espe­cially if you’re writ­ing fic­tion. Then in a foot­note on p. 123, she adds, “That is why you must not try too hard to be hon­est, sin­cere, in your writ­ing, for that too is a kind of false­ness. Why you are hon­est there is no try­ing about it. You are just qui­etly hon­est, and that is all there is to it.” Wow. What advice. So beau­ti­fully put, though some­times very hard to imple­ment, but absolutely vital in craft­ing a novel.

Chap­ter 15, p. 137, “Don’t be afraid of writ­ing bad, mawk­ish sto­ries for that will show you many things about your­self .… If you write a bad story, the way to make it bet­ter is to write three more. Then look at the first one. You will have grown in under­stand­ing, in hon­esty. You will know what to do to it. And to yourself.”