Friday, October 24, 2014

The SELF-PRINTED 3.0 Splash! (#selfprintedsplash)

As my indie writer friends know, I think Catherine Ryan Howard is the bomb. When I discovered her as a resource a few years ago, I was delighted to find someone who was brimming with common sense and practical advice. Were it not for her, I don't think I could have handled formatting for Smashwords, and I probably would have made a bunch of stupid and costly marketing mistakes, as well as spammed Twitter with every review I've ever gotten and every excerpt I could fit into 140 characters.
I'm pleased to be a part of the splash to get the word out about the 3rd edition of SELF PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON'S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING. Just to show how insanely knowledgeable she is, she invited one hundred or so of her craziest fans to send in their publishing and marketing questions.
Did I try to stump this brilliant woman? You bet. Did she rise to the challenge? What do you think? ;-)
Q: For fiction (specifically romance), where do you think you get the most bang for your marketing buck: ads or public relations (e.g., reviews, interviews, etc.)?
A: Ooh, this is a toughie.

Normally I say don't spend any $ on advertising at all, but if you have a very specific genre that is known to sell in droves, and you find the most [that genre] popular book blogger site that has a gizallion readers a month who love YOUR kind of book, and that book blogger is offering a banner header for $100, well then: go for it! If you think it'll practically guarantee sales, it'll be money well spent.

On the other hand, word of mouth is what drives all bestsellers, and that can only come from reviews on sites like Goodreads and from book bloggers, and sending them copies of your book costs $ too. Having said that, if you're posting paperbacks, how many can you realistically buy and mail for $100? Could you send e-books instead?

If I ONLY had $100, I'd split it. I'd spend $25 running a Goodreads giveaway (as per strategic way that I blogged about recently) and the rest on a banner or sidebar advertisement on a website I KNOW has lots of avid readers who love just my kind of book OR a newsletter/mail shot that goes to those same kinds of readers - in other words, maximum guaranteed eyeballs. Then I'd try to e-mail out a few e-book review copies too, just to be sure!

Thank you Catherine! 

Want more great tips like this? Then grab your copy of SELF-PRINTED (3rd edition)!

Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON'S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (3rd edition) is out now in paperback and e-book and available from Amazon. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter today (Friday 24th) and/or visit for chance to win an amazing prize that will get your self-publishing adventure started!

“SELF-PRINTED is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results - The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series

A Place Halfway (SYNSK Series Book 3) by K.C. Finn (Excerpt, Giveaway)

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Title:  A Place Halfway
Series:  SYNSK Series Book 3
Author:   K.C. Finn
Published:  October 24th, 2014
Publisher:  Clean Teen Publishing
Page Count:  229
Genre:  YA Historical Adventure
Content Warning:  Mild Violence
Recommended Age:  16+
Synopsis:  A struggling psychic girl steps out into the big, wide world amidst the murky depths of racial segregation in England, 1961.
As a teenage psychic, Josephine Fontaine knows what it’s like to be different. At Peregrine Place, a school full of youngsters with gifts just like hers, sixteen-year-old Josie is growing tired of her life and looking for excitement beyond the grand manor house’s walls. When an opportunity arises to work in a local music bar, she jumps at the chance, learning to balance her new job with the pressures of studying the ways of the Synsk.
There she meets the charming Tommy Asher, a fellow psychic with a talent for music, and Jake Bolton, a handsome, surly stranger with coffee-coloured skin. Throw in the return of her old crush Dai Bickerstaff, and Josie finds herself embroiled in a drama much bigger than she could have imagined, especially when certain parties take issue to her developing a friendship with a boy who isn’t white-skinned. When a mysterious record mogul offers Josie help to improve her psychic gifts, her world turns totally upside down, and she begins to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her family, and even herself.
Coming of age was never so intense as it will be for Josie in the winter of 1961.
“When you’ve quite finished mumbling, young man,” Miss Cartwright said in her clipped tone.

A few people giggled as the boy sank into the seat beside me. He was smaller with the guitar absent from his back, and he seemed much less sure of himself here than when he’d been trying to convince Frost to let him play at Halfway. I reasoned that he must have recently come to the village ready to start school here and spotted the club on the side of the lane just like us. Miss Cartwright cleared her throat, commanding utter silence from the assembled kids.

“Answer me when I call your name,” she instructed. “Let’s make sure we have no dunces who have come to the wrong room.”

The boy looked down at his desk skittishly.

“Thomas Asher,” Miss Cartwright said.

The boy suddenly looked up again, eyes widening. “Oh, um. Yes, Miss,” he replied, “I mean, here, Miss.”

Miss Cartwright gave him her best glare, but said nothing more on the matter. She began to move across the room as she called out names, studying every face in the rows before her.

It’s Tommy actually, a voice suddenly said in my head. Only my nanna calls me Thomas.

I took a deep breath, pushing my mind towards his. Did I give you permission to speak in my head? I asked him.

Although I was tuning out of the room to speak with him, I could still see the outline of his face as he smiled at me; I was caught somewhere partway between reality and full psychic concentration.

Sorry, Tommy answered, but I certainly wasn’t going to whisper out loud with her staring at me. Scary woman, that one.

I tried my best not to giggle. You have no idea, I answered. She’s been teaching me for six years.

Not cool, Tommy replied.

A book suddenly slammed down on my desk. I leapt in my seat, my old, wooden chair rattling as I looked up into the thunderous face of my teacher. “Josephine Fontaine,” she said, her teeth gritted. “Are we in such a state of distraction that we can’t answer our own name on the register nowadays?”

I gave Tommy a withering glare, watching him bite his lip to hold back a laugh.

“Sorry, Miss,” I answered. “But you do know I’m here. I mean, it’s not as though we’re strangers.” I regretted adding the bit after the apology immediately.

“Oh no, we know each other very well,” she answered primly. “I suspect you’re going to be repeating this class until we’re both white-haired and wrinkled.”

 photo KC-Finn.jpg About the Author:
Born in South Wales to Raymond and Jennifer Finn, Kimberley Charlotte Elisabeth Finn (known to readers as K.C., otherwise it’d be too much of a mouthful) was one of those corny little kids who always wanted to be a writer. She was also incredibly stubborn, and so has finally achieved that dream in 2013 with the release of her first three novellas in the four-part Caecilius Rex saga, the time travel adventure The Secret Star and her new urban fantasy epic The Book Of Shade.
As a sufferer with the medical condition M.E./C.F.S., Kim works part time as a private tutor and a teacher of creative writing, devoting the remainder of her time to writing novels and studying for an MA in Education and Linguistics.
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Clean Teen Publishing Links:
Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • Reader's choice of Clean Teen Publishing eBook and bookmark swag pack. 
Giveaway is International a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, October 20, 2014

There *is* such a thing as bad publicity

I mentioned, in places too numerous to link to, that I originally went the "traditional" route and queried agents. Although I wanted to go indie for a while, I was cognizant of the benefits of traditional, most of which were in the areas of editorial and marketing services. One of the things that convinced me to finally take the plunge was that there is almost no marketing support these days unless you're already really big or unless, for whatever reason, your publishing house takes a shine to you. Because the category I write in doesn't command a lot of shelf space in bookstores (that would be New Adult Romance, FYI), I realized I would not be one of those authors who would get a lot of support, if I got picked up at all.

I am happy with my decision, but we indies are very aware of how much work we have to do to generate our own publicity. I love writing for other blogs, but I realize that those don't have the same reach as a print magazine or newspaper. I am not the only indie who fantasizes about having a big platform to shout from so I could convince people that they should buy my book.

It's just that I always figured if I did, I'd be giving you good reasons to buy from me, not telling you all of the reasons why someone who doesn't like my stuff is so deficient. In fact, if I had a really big platform, I wouldn't want to tell ANYONE about the people who didn't like me. So the actions of two authors last week leave me not only disgusted, but puzzled.

I am not going to write out the name of the first author in question, nor am I going to put her name in the tags. Here's a link to some of Dear Author's coverage of the story. I am not going to give this woman anymore publicity because what this author did falls under the definition of stalking. I don't mean online stalking- I mean real-life stalking. I don't understand why the blogger she stalked hasn't brought criminal charges against her, because I would. And how did this start? Because the author could not handle that this blogger and reviewer didn't like her book.

A really lousy publicity strategy
People are crazy; what else is new? But what has been making me blink for the last few days is that the Guardian, a respected news outlet, published the story the author told about her obviously criminal behavior. It also astounds me that her publishing company, Harper Teen, has said nothing in response to what their author did. Until they do, I can only assume that their silence is cover for their approval.

Slightly less disturbing is the tantrum author Margo Howard wrote for the New Republic. Her book was given to Amazon's Vine Program for early review. She seems to find the idea of pre-publication reviews in and of themselves offensive, never mind that most authors (traditional and indie) long for such pre-publicity. Apparently, the Vine Reviews she received were unflattering, and she in turns feels that these unprofessional reviewers are uneducated mouth-breathers who are only reviewing so they can get free stuff and don't understand that books are different from "pots and creams".

The only qualified reviewers, according to some
Ah, that again. As a long-time reviewer and a member of the Vine Program, I would like to point out that it is extremely difficult to review the product if we don't have it. And since we are being asked to review it, it just doesn't make sense to charge us for what we review. Hence, what we get is free.

I'd also like to add that I'd been reviewing on Amazon by choice for about six or seven years before I was selected to be in the Vine Program. I have a decent rank, but I wasn't in the Top 1000. To this day, I'm not entirely sure why I was tapped, but obviously Amazon felt I offered something that they wanted for their program. This would, therefore, be the case with all of the other reviewers in the program. In other words: we were asked.

I'm an author; I get how much a bad review can sting. But if we're serious about not just writing but publishing our work, I fail to understand why we would not act like professionals and not narcissists. I also don't understand why the Guardian and the New Republic want to perpetuate the idea that reviews, which are really opinions, and perhaps books in general should only be available to those who are qualified.

Here is my list of qualifications: literacy. Yep- done. All those who qualify are invited to read books and share their opinions.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Last Orphans (The Last Orphans Series #1) by N.W. Harris


Title: The Last Orphans

Series: The Last Orphans Series #1

Author: N.W. Harris

To Be Published: October 17th, 2014

Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing

Page Count: 274

Genre: YA Apocalyptic Sci-Fi

Content Warning: Violence, adult content, minor language

Age Recommendation: 16+

One horrifying day will change the life of sixteen-year-old Shane Tucker and every other kid in the world.

In a span of mere hours, the entire adult population is decimated, leaving their children behind to fend for themselves and deal with the horrific aftermath of the freak occurrence. As one of the newly made elders in his small town, Shane finds himself taking on the role of caretaker for a large group of juvenile survivors. One who just happens to be Kelly Douglas–an out-of-his-league classmate–who, on any other day, would have never given Shane a second glance.

Together, they begin their quest to find out why all of the adults were slaughtered. What they find is even more horrifying than anything they could have expected–the annihilation of the adults was only the beginning. Shane and his friends are not the unlucky survivors left to inherit this new, messed-up planet. No, they are its next victims. There is an unknown power out there, and it won t stop until every person in the world is dead.

A spine-tingling adventure that will have you gasping for breath all the way until the last page, The Last Orphans is the first book in an all-new apocalyptic series.


Born at the end of the Vietnam war and raised on a horse farm near small town north Georgia, N.W. Harris’s imagination evolved under the swaying pines surrounding his family’s log home. On summer days that were too hot, winter days that were too cold, and every night into the wee morning hours, he read books.

N.W. Harris published his first novel—Joshua’s Tree—in 2013. It was no wonder that with his wild imagination and passion for all things word related, that N.W. Harris was named a quarter finalist in Amazon’s Break Through Novel Award Contest. In early 2014, N.W. Harris joined the ranks with Clean Teen Publishing when they signed his new young adult apocalyptic adventure series—The Last Orphans.

In addition to writing, N.W. Harris has been a submarine sailor, nurse, and business owner. His studies have included biology, anthropology, and medicine at UCSB and SUNY Buffalo. He is an active member of SCBWI and lives in sunny southern California with his beautiful wife and two perfect children. He writes like he reads, constantly.


Light faded from the gloomy heavens as Shane climbed over his aunt and out of the passenger side of the cab. Ominous green clouds still choked the sky, but the air was calm and quiet. He walked a few yards away and turned around, staring absently at the wreckage and wanting to die. The truck door hung open, his aunt’s swollen feet sticking out. Crippling numbness overtook him, pressing in on all sides, as if he were being buried in wet cement. It invaded his mind, drowning his thoughts, and leaving only dejected questions that no one could answer. What was he supposed to do now? Why did he have to still be alive when everyone he loved was being taken from him?
“Help!” A girl’s hysterical voice ripped through his viscous daze like a bullet through a soda can. “Can you please? Help!”
The voice was pitched with agony and grief, but also very familiar.
Shane pivoted, the weight of his aunt’s nightmarish demise making it hard to move.
Two girls ran up the Douglas’ long, gravel driveway toward him. The taller one’s tangled, blonde hair billowed behind her. She wore cutoff blue jeans and a baggy, white T-shirt with crimson paint smeared across her chest. She dragged a shorter version of herself by the hand behind her as she ran. It took a second for Shane to register who it was.
“Kelly?” he shouted, his voice hoarse with shock. Struggling to break free of the catatonic state threatening to turn him into stone, he jogged heavily down the driveway to meet her.
“They killed my dad and my mom!” she shrieked, her eyes wild and her gaze darting like she expected some horror to jump out of the fields and attack her. “They went berserk and trampled them!”
“Wait—slow down.” Shane grabbed her shoulders to steady her. Her distress tore his mind away from the despair seeping through every part of his body, starving him for breath and welding his joints together. “Who killed your parents?” He realized the red on her clothes was fresh blood.

The Siren (Laments of Angels and Dark Chemistry # 1) by Meg Xuemei X (Excerpt, Giveaway)

Title: The Siren

Series: Laments of Angels and Dark Chemistry # 1

Author: Meg Xuemei X

Published: August 9th, 2014

Word Count: 80,000

Genre: YA Fantasy Romance Action Adventure

Two boys tied to her irrevocably. One offers life disguised as death; the other leads to death with unfathomable love. Her choice decides whether the world turns or ends.

Lucienne Lam, born to rule as the last of the Sirens, is running out of time. If she fails to find the TimeDust, an ancient power, her enemies will have their wish–her head on a spike. And she’ll never know the love promised by Vladimir, a fierce warrior of the Czech royal bloodline.

Except Ashburn, a genius ‘farm boy,’ has found the TimeDust first, and its power binds Lucienne to him. She must convince him to sever this forced bond so she can return to her first love. But breaking the link seems insurmountable when the TimeDust launches its own ominous agenda and the two boys prepare to duel to the death over her.

Vladimir reacted instantly, catching her before she hit the wall. The impact drove them both to the ground. “I’m glad you’re on top,” said Vladimir with another groan. “I absorbed most of the hit.”
“That’s very kind of you.” Lucienne turned to Vladimir, their faces inches away. His warm breath and pheromone made her forget where she was. Rushing footsteps brought her to her senses.
“Yes, Lucia?” he whispered, his hands pressing against the small of her back.
“We’ve been discovered.”
“I know. But there’s no need for them to yell. That’s kind of rude.”
“They’re not yelling.”
“No, but they will.”
About the Author:
Meg Xuemei X is an award-winning author. She grew up in a backward, southern town in China, went to college in Akron, and dropped out from Tisch School.

She’s the author of Laments of Angels & Dark Chemistry series. Her science fiction novel, Ghost Star, was published by the China Federation of Literature Publishing House. Her romance novella, Dance with Your Enemy, won an International Editorial Award.

She lives in Sherman Oaks, California.

She’d love for you to sign up to her mailing list at

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website

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Monday, October 13, 2014

So maybe this is why you need to diversify your distribution chain?

As you may recall, I agonized last year over whether I should keep all of my books in Kindle Select, which meant exclusivity on Amazon, or whether I should diversify and make them available to Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and all of the other channels. While KDP Select did offer what amounts to highly visible free advertising, the program simply wasn't offering the same return that it had even the year before, and there was no way to know how it was going to change. Fine- things change- but the more invested I was in it as my only platform, the more vulnerable I'd be to those changes.

Shorter: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Which is why this piece in the New York Times is making me scratch my head. Let me be clear: I understand that as an indie author I have a lot more freedom than most traditionally published authors. If I want to change prices, all I have to do is go to my author dashboards on KDP or Smashwords. Also, if I really wanted to, I could sell my books directly on my website, in addition to or instead of selling them through other vendors. Authors who are published through publishing houses generally can't make those decisions on their own.

Amazon or die! Wait, what? Why?
But...if I had a huge fan-base, I'd put information on my website, Facebook Page and Twitter account as to where else my fans can purchase my books if I didn't feel Amazon was doing a good job for me. I would also create a mailing list if I hadn't already and send out notices with the same information. And I would encourage people to shop for my physical title at their local Barnes & Noble or indie bookstore. I would also jump all over Hachette and demand that they make their website a place where readers can directly buy my titles. (What, that sounds futile? Less so than making demands of Amazon.)

This is not a static industry, and everyone has to constantly adapt. It stinks when we'd rather be doing things like writing, but that's the way it is. If, indeed, Amazon is doing corrupt things (it's one thing to lose your spot on a list due to an algorithm, it's another to lose it because someone took you off of it) then that highlights that we need to be less vulnerable to them. Yes, by all means, report this to whichever regulating bodies are appropriate, but in the meantime work every other angle and advantage you have.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Algorithms, preferences, word of mouth- oh my!

Okay folks- I will let you in on a little secret: many marketing efforts we indie writers employ are all about getting Amazon to highlight us, however briefly, on one of their landing pages so that you, the reader, will say, "hey, catchy cover/title/author's name...let me go check out that blurb...ooh, interesting...hey, not a bad price [especially if we're running a sale]...oh look, the reviews are pretty good...I am here, so why not?"

I'm going to spare you everything that (we think) goes into inducing you to have that conversation with yourself, but it is all contingent on the magical algorithms that power Amazon. It is, for the most part, a complete crapshoot, because we don't really know how Amazon makes its determinations as to what you like. We know that the more you sell, the more you sell, and we have seen some evidence that more reviews get you more visibility than those with fewer reviews (maybe!). And if we can get even eyeballs on our title after someone has looked at something else, that can give us a little bump too.

But maybe the algorithm is a crapshoot too.

As I've mentioned before, I've reviewed on Amazon for over a decade. I've also been known to create Wishlists and Lists for Listmania. Sometimes, I get great suggestions from my purchases, because I've rated something or because I've added something to a Wishlist. Because Amazon knows I like Thelonious Monk (you know, more than the average person with functional ears), they suggested a slew of other Jazz Artists and titles, many of which sat on my Wishlist for years until I recently added them to my Spotify list. And you know what? I found some great titles I wouldn't have found otherwise, certainly not through something like Spotify's Discover engine.

I've also come across a number of resources on cooking and fitness that I wouldn't have found without them. Also, because my sons love the Amulet series, I added the latest title to my Wishlist, and now I have a number of recommendations for age-appropriate graphic novels. Thanks, Amazon- you do a good job in some things.

Dude, if you're going to eavesdrop, do it right
However, I recently reviewed a Korean movie that was over a decade old. Sort of kind of obscure, but not unheard of- at least ten other people had reviewed it as well. Strangely, I did not see one suggestion when I went through the Recommended For You list that Amazon generates. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they, despite being an international juggernaut, really don't do well with things that don't "speak" to an American or Western audience? (I tell you, that Pankaj Ghemawat is onto something!)

Maybe...but then how do we explain Amazon's lack of recommendations to me for anything related to mythology? You think I talk about it a lot here? You should see how many items I've reviewed on their site. I would LOVE to get recommendations for more books on the topic, especially if it's anything along the lines of George O'Connor's awesome Olympians series. But, on Amazon, utter silence.

(Let's not even talk about how it hasn't had any foreign policy recommendations worth noting since I randomly picked up Arab Spring Dreams and Invisible Armies- or got and loved Lawrence in Arabia through their Vine program. I've got Twitter to scratch that itch. Right...)

Unfortunately, I'm picky: just because I liked one thing an author wrote doesn't mean I'll like everything. The last author I binged on was Agatha Christie- and even she got on my nerves after a while with some references that struck me as simply racist in the 21st century. (And of course I'm only talking about the Poirot series; I've never wanted to read Miss Marple.) So an algorithm like Amazon's can actually be useful to me, both as an author and as a reader, but it's not.

So how do I find things to read? The old-fashioned ways: word-of-mouth from like-minded friends...and browsing the library shelves. What are you going to do?

Excuse me, I'm going to do some research into the genealogies of Greek mythology now. (Are you listening, the internet?!)